Unveiling Inequities: Intersectionality of BIPOC Women in Early Childhood Education Through the Lens of ‘Origin’ and Advocacy for Change

| Danielle Caldwell

Unveiling Inequities: Thoughts from our Provider-In-Residence

During Black History Month, we joyously celebrate the rich tapestry of contributions made by the Black community in the realms of science, art, literature, and music. As we commemorate Black history and take pride in our collective achievements, it is also a moment for introspection, particularly through the lens of documentaries that illuminate the struggles for civil rights.  Documentaries can serve as poignant reminders that systems and policies have historically perpetuated the marginalization of certain communities, while simultaneously uplifting others. It is evident that these social structures, which are deeply rooted in race and gender dynamics, have endured over time. This reflection is especially pertinent for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Early Childhood Education (ECE) community, which recognizes, that within our industry and workforce, a caste-like system persists contributing to disproportionately low wages. Examining data, it becomes apparent that, unlike many other industries where education catalyzes upward mobility, Early Care and Education systems stand as a stark exception. Parallels drawn from historical struggles and residual systemic inequalities reinforce our need for collective action, dismantling enduring barriers and ensuring the essential role of the ECE workforce is justly valued and compensated.

Examples in Film

Ava DuVernay’s recent film, “Origin,” adapted from Isabel Wilkerson’s profound work “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” unveils the harmful narrative that is often referenced as ‘socioeconomic status or marginalization.’ Upon further examination, we see a deeply ingrained social structure that has shaped destinies and perpetuated disparities similar to caste systems in India. This film compellingly portrays how systems have contributed to tragedies like the killing of Trayvon Martin. 

Elected officials, driven by a narrative that prioritizes business interests, unwittingly contribute to the perpetuation of inequality. The dismissal of science and the belittlement of social-emotional well-being, often brushed aside as “woke theory” and emotional rhetoric, further compound the harm inflicted on our most vulnerable communities.  Viewing “Origin” recently evoked a potent sense of nostalgia within me, transporting me back to a pivotal moment in my childhood.  It took me back to a time when I was ten years old and the majority of Americans were captivated by the groundbreaking docuseries “Roots.” Those episodes intricately wove a tapestry of a Black family’s experiences, their stories passed down through generations. It was during this time that I first began to grasp the weight of being classified as a Black woman — an awareness that this categorization would shape how I was treated and the trajectory of my entire life.  “Origin” serves as a powerful reminder that the echoes of history continue to reverberate, demanding our attention and collective action.

This sparks my determination to challenge unfair systems of social hierarchy disproportionately affecting BIPOC child care professionals.  Industry norms dictate a standard fifty-five-hour workweek, without overtime or just compensation creating an environment where individuals are overworked and overwhelmed. After decades of service as a child care professional, today I strive to be a valuable contributor to the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector while seeking dignity over being relegated to a system that devalues my time, effort, knowledge, and skills, particularly in comparison to other industries.

The bottom line is this, it is the profound intersection of our social structures influencing the narrative of childcare that drives inefficient policies.  Acknowledging these systemic challenges within my profession intensifies my dedication to addressing and dismantling these unjust structures. I am committed to paving the way for a more equitable future for everyone involved in the ECE profession.

Historical Intersections & The Women Caring for Children Today

Home-based child care emerges as the primary and essential thread binding communities together, particularly under the stewardship of BIPOC women whose perspectives are shaped by generational trauma. These individuals possess an intimate understanding of the financial hardships and emotional toll that families in their care endure. This shared experience fosters empathy and fuels a genuine commitment to uplifting families. Through home-based child care, BIPOC women contribute significantly to community well-being by offering vital services, including financial support, nutrition services, counseling, and community outreach. Moreover, their engagement extends to social justice advocacy, working diligently to ensure a fair and just society for all. Supporting and recognizing the crucial role of home-based child care, especially when led by BIPOC women, is an investment in the resilience and success of families and communities alike.

Often provided by BIPOC women, home-based child care has a positive impact on communities.  It contributes to community development, family engagement, cultural preservation, and access to neighborhood child care which is often inaccessible and unaffordable for low socioeconomic families.  Understanding and addressing the intersectional aspects of BIPOC women’s experiences in the home-based child care field is crucial for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. Policymakers, organizations, and communities can work collaboratively to create supportive environments that recognize and value the unique contributions in this sector.  BIPOC women may advocate for policies that address the unique needs and challenges they face, such as culturally responsive training programs and support services.  The development and implementation of policies related to home-based child care will have an overall positive effect on the workforce, families and children. 

Pedagogies of poverty not only affect Home-based child care owners but also the families they serve.  Galvanizing home-based child care programs as an essential part of a mixed delivery system, for families seeking cultural and linguistic congruence, is a powerful start. This diversity can be an asset, providing rich and varied experiences for the children in their care.  However, it also poses challenges, such as navigating cultural differences, language barriers, and negative perspectives. Disrupting systemic and structural barriers, rooted in racism and sexism can have a positive effect on BIPOC women in their pursuit of careers and small businesses in home-based child care.

Evidenced-based Decision Making

Playing a pivotal role in gathering vital evidence, workforce registries serve as the foundation for informed policies aimed at enhancing conditions and fostering the well-being of BIPOC Early Childhood Education (ECE) home-based providers. These registries serve as comprehensive repositories of information, offering insights into the unique challenges, needs, and strengths of this specific segment of the workforce.  By systematically collecting and analyzing data from workforce registries, policymakers gain a nuanced understanding of the conditions faced by BIPOC ECE home-based providers and evidence supporting the impact of investments or a lack thereof. This knowledge becomes a powerful tool in crafting policies tailored to address the specific challenges and promote the well-being of these providers.

Informed policies, guided by data from registries, encompass various dimensions, including:

  1. Financial Support:  Identifying and addressing financial challenges faced by BIPOC ECE home-based providers to ensure equitable compensation.
  2. Training and Professional Development: Tailoring training programs to address specific needs and promote continuous professional growth within this workforce.
  3. Community Resources: Enhancing access to community resources and support networks that contribute to the overall well-being of providers and the quality of care they offer.
  4. Advocacy for Inclusivity: Promoting policies that address systemic inequalities, fostering an inclusive environment for BIPOC ECE home-based providers.
  5. Health and Wellness: Implementing measures to prioritize the physical and mental health of providers, recognizing the crucial role it plays in the quality of care, retention, and recruitment.

Ultimately, leveraging workforce registries to inform policies ensures interventions are targeted, effective, and tailored to the lived experiences of current home-based providers. This approach both acknowledges diversity within the ECE workforce and actively works toward creating a more supportive and equitable environment for those who play a crucial role in the early development of our children.

 


The “Provider In Residence” is a new role in 2023, made possible by the generous support of Home Grown and their collaborating foundations. This position was developed, in part, to elevate the workforce we strive to serve by bringing their participation, insights, voices, and experiences closely into our work. This position allows us to ensure we have a workforce representative present in our early discussions, planning, and state and national meetings. We are pleased to have Ms. Caldwell as an integral member of our staffing team and to be piloting a program of this nature. It strongly aligns with our values, our mission, and our public commitments. This program is one we hope to see reproduced in states and is one crucial first step in our effort to authentically engage workforce members in our work. We look forward to what 2024 will bring and to planning for how we collectively bring more workforce perspectives into our efforts.