Straus Center for Young Children & Families



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This conference paper was presented at the 2021 meeting of the American Educational Research Association. It shares findings from a mixed method, exploratory study that sought to understand how New York State's early childhood (ECE) workforce was faring early in the COVID-19 pandemic (n=3,555). This was a project of the New York City Early Childhood Research Network, a research practitioner partnership organized to create evidence-informed early childhood public policy. Among the key findings were high levels of reported stress, for instance those working remotely were approximately one-and-a-half times more likely to rate their emotional well-being negatively than those whose settings were closed (95% CI 1.157, 1.896) and a strong desire for mental health support.

Towards gaining further understanding of respondents' experiences, we used statistical analyses to inform the analysis of the survey's textual data resulting in six themes: (1) Consequences of Social Distancing; (2) Commitment; (3) Time-Space Compression; (4) Working the Second Shift; (5) Mis/communication; and (6) Policies' Effects on Well-Being. It is important to note that each of these themes included substantive evidence of resilience (e.g., creative transition to remote ECE, support for each other, support to families, etc.), but the focus in this paper is on the pandemic's adverse effects because of 1) a general tendency to expect educators to show resilience as a part of their jobs; and 2) because of the relative inattention being paid to educators' well-being, both for themselves and the children they care for and teach. While these findings should be treated cautiously, as these analyses are based upon a nonprobability (self-selected) sample, the issues respondents raised have broader policy implications that warrant ongoing attention, most notably the need to reorient ECE systems towards healing-centered interaction (i.e., promoting racial equity, attuned interactions, broadened accessibility, and fostering experiences of belonging and well-being).

Publication Date

Spring 4-9-2021


New York


Early Childhood, COVID-19, Restorative, Systems


Early Childhood Education | Education Policy

COVID-19 and Early Childhood Workforce Emotional Well-Being: An Exploratory Investigation