Strolling Thunder Advocate Story: Military Parent Alyssa Nichol

Low Pay and High Turnover is Challenging for Kids, Parents, and Child Care Programs

Alyssa Nichol is the mother of two young children, and currently stationed at Navy Station Newport as a Navy JAG (Judge Advocate General). Having been active duty for ten years, Alyssa is used to relocating, and quickly adapting in new communities. “Most military families move often and depend on access to community-based child care,” said Alyssa. “ We don’t have long-term family or friends nearby to help with our kids, and taking a break from the workforce isn’t really an option. We really depend on consistent access to stable child care.”

Sandpipers Early Learning Center in Middletown was able to immediately enroll Alyssa’s daughters when she relocated to Rhode Island, and she’s been thrilled with the program. “Whenever I’m working, I know my girls are loved, thriving, learning, and socializing. I’m incredibly grateful to have that peace of mind,” she said.

Alyssa says her daughters’ teachers are a key part of the support system they’ve found in Rhode Island, but she worries that child care providers are not equipped to survive under the current funding model because family tuition payments and government subsidies for low-income families are not sufficient to pay teachers decent wages. “All the teachers at Sandpipers are incredible, and pour their heart and soul into their jobs,” said Alyssa. “Unfortunately, my daughter’s previous teacher had to leave for a better-paying career path, even though she loved teaching and was highly qualified. She couldn’t afford to stay in a job that doesn’t typically pay a living wage.”  

Alyssa worries that early learning centers can’t attract and retain enough highly qualified teachers because they can’t survive on the low wages that are standard for the child care field (an average of $12/hour in Rhode Island). She believes that child care centers, teachers, and students deserve stability, and encourages Rhode Island General Assembly members to support The Child Care is Essential Act to ensure that funding is in place to support the child care industry as a crucial element of economic stability.