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Training Program Helps Keep City Heights' Child Care In Business During Pandemic

The entrance to Safiyo Jama's home-based childcare center in City Heights on March 9th, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
The entrance to Safiyo Jama's home-based childcare center in City Heights on March 9th, 2021.

Last March, Somali immigrant Safiyo Jama saw her home-based child care business in City Heights fall apart.

When the pandemic hit, children were kept home, their parents couldn’t pay for care anymore and Jama’s own revenue dropped precipitously.

Training Program Helps Keep City Heights’ Child Care In Business During Pandemic
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“A year ago, the pandemic, it hit us, especially me, hard. I lost a lot of kids, a lot of families, who couldn’t keep their jobs,” she said.

That’s when a coalition of local groups — including the Horn of Africa, the Chicano Federation, the International Rescue Committee, the YMCA and San Diego State University — stepped up.

Video: Training Program Helps Keep City Heights Childcare In Business During Pandemic

They launched a pilot program meant to keep these vital local institutions alive, during a time when many essential workers in this immigrant neighborhood still had to go into work.

“This is a lifeline for our underserved communities,” said Abdulrahman Ibrahim, the senior childcare program coordinator at the International Rescue Committee. He explained that the pilot program was not only meant to help support the businesses financially, but with other support like marketing and bookkeeping. “We’re trying to sustain their business to make sure they don’t fall behind with what’s going on with this pandemic.”

Between March and July 2020, more than 9,300 licensed child care providers went out of business in California, with home-based child care providers, like Safiyo Jama’s, representing 80% of those closures.

But none of the 15 businesses that reopened to children last spring and took part in the 12-week training program had to close their doors. Some even increased their revenues and enrollment from before the pandemic.

RELATED: City Heights Group Blazes Path For Young Black Men Stuck Inside During Pandemic

Safiyo Jama’s center now has a waiting list.

She thinks the most valuable assistance she received was finding ways to connect with the larger immigrant community and being made aware of funding opportunities for immigrant child care providers.

“As a community, as a Somali community, as Oromo, Ethiopians, Spanish-speakers, all that, most of those who do child care will benefit a lot,” she said. "The organizations sends us email, lets us know what is coming our way, how we can apply, how we can make big our businesses, and all the grants coming up.”

Jama pointed out how for businesses that are run out of people’s homes, even just locating rental assistance can be a major boon for these small child care providers.