With so many uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maria ‘Elisa’ Vega is worried about the future of child care in Minnesota.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen and how much longer this situation will last. I’m afraid I may even lose my child care due to the economy.”
Vega runs a licensed family child care program in St. Paul. ‘Little world of Angels’ is a bilingual program that serves a mix of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families. She is married and has six grown children of her own. She has been working in child care for more than twenty years.
“I like children very much. I knew that I could offer them a complete education teaching them Spanish and giving them greater opportunities in their lives.”
Vega had 13 children before the virus, and is now caring for only five.
“The mental toll caused by the risk that an infection poses is a daily preoccupation,” said Vega. She stayed open because she has children of essential workers who still need help. “I have parents that work in clinics, hospitals, as well as stores where food is prepared.”
But Vega says many families decided to stay home with their children due to COVID-19 and gave her notice.“The pandemic has impacted me greatly,” she said. “The families that are working do pay me, but some parents weren’t able to because their work ran out or they lost their job.”
Vega did receive an emergency grant from Think Small – made possible by a generous grant from the Minnesota Council on Foundations Disaster Recovery Fund.
“It has helped me a lot. I was able to keep paying my assistant, pay for utilities that I need for my child care, and to buy more products to continue disinfecting everything and be safer.”
Vega says they are trying to take more precautions with hygiene while working to keep the environment as normal as possible for the children.
“The kids have been affected socially because many of their friends are not attending anymore and they miss them,” she said. “We still try to see each other through FaceTime, but it is not the same.”
Vega says what scares her the most, besides knowing that there are people losing their lives due to the pandemic, is that families are losing their jobs and will have no way of supporting their children.
“I miss the children and I will continue to work to help the parents that need me,” Vega said. “I hope to God that families are able to return to their jobs and that way all of the children can return to my child care. We are all like one big family together.”
Vega was featured in our Early Education Spotlight series in 2017. Read more about her family child care program HERE.