CLEAN AIR–I CARE: Balancing childcare, work & wildfire smoke exposures for farmworker parents

Challenge 

Working outside amid heat and wildfire smoke makes summer farm work grueling. But for those who are also parents, these challenges are compounded by the pressure of balancing work and childcare, and concerns about their children’s health in the smoke. Farmworkers also have few wildfire and smoke information sources that are non-written or in Spanish. 
 

Project Overview 

This community-academic project sought to describe the impact of wildfire smoke has on agricultural families’ ability to balance work, childcare, and concerns about smoke exposure. The purpose was to identify community needs and priorities during wildfire season and propose solutions to support the health and well-being of farmworker families and their children. In collaboration with Wenatchee-based nonprofit Community for the Advancement of Family Education (CAFÉ), 20 agricultural families were recruited for interviews to share their experiences and concerns during wildfire season. Two ‘Clean Air – I Care’ Community Discussions, were organized in Wenatchee and Okanogan with 80 participants. During the event, findings from the interviews were shared, roundtable discussions were facilitated, and resources were shared with agricultural families in Spanish. “The events were focused on hearing from farmworkers,” said Savannah D’Evelyn, who co-led the project with Laura Rivera of Wenatchee CAFÉ. community partners including Clean Air Methow, Northwest Justice Project, and other local organizations also provided resources.  

Findings to Date 

  • Six major themes identified core needs in: Preparing homes for smoke events, Worksite resources for smoke events, Worksite response, more accessible summer childcare, Family stress, Resources for parents. 
  • During smoke events, farmworkers often worry about how their families are doing while they are at work, and about keeping kids inside. 
  • Parents emphasized their need for more reliable, affordable, and accessible childcare during the growing season. 
  • There is a need for more smoke-related safety information, and a need to find ways to help families cope with large smoke events. 
  • There were concerns about smoke exposure for kids, who are especially vulnerable, such as those with asthma. 
  • More resources are needed to make homes a clean air space during wildfires. 
  • During the community discussions, farmworkers shared that evacuation notices and smoke information were not widely shared in their communities. 

Other Accomplishments 

  • Established new partnerships and a model for farmworker engagement. 
  • Participants found the sessions were useful and, in a format, accessible for Spanish speakers and those who cannot read. 

Next Steps 

The team plans to present the farmworkers’ comments in a report that can be shared with community organizations, such as health care and childcare providers. Additional needs and concerns expressed by farmworkers during the townhall will be shared with local resource organizations to improve how they provide for these communities.  

Resources 

PI: Savannah D’Evelyn, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Washington