Updated: May 6
The purpose of this webinar was to engage family childcare providers and center-based care providers in an open conversation about their experience being open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and what they are doing to maintain program health and safety. We hope this webinar has answered some of the questions from providers who are considering opening, but also that participants left with tips that may be used in their own practice. Lastly, we hope that participants felt a part of a community of essential workers who they may call on and rely on during this pandemic. In case you missed the webinar, you can view the recording (password = 4Q!hK4S9), chat transcript, and PowerPoint now!
During the webinar, we asked currently opened providers about their decision to remain open, changes in their daily routines, how they are handling social distancing, and many other questions. Below is an overview of what was shared during the webinar.
Decision to Stay Open
The providers that stayed open did so out of a need for the community. Both presenters conducted a needs assessment to understand the type of assistance that parents needed. Many of the parents who use the child care services are essential workers themselves. Because parents had to work, they could not stay home to watch their children. Hence, the need for childcare services was still there. Childcare workers did not want to leave their families in a situation of losing a job and then becoming unable to provide for their children. Also, childcare workers need to work to earn an income, thus staying open through this crisis was hardly a choice for some of them.
Handling Social Distancing and Group Size
Providers made many changes to protect against the spread of COVID-19. One provider limited childcare services to only essential families in order to protect against the spread of COVID-19. On average, the center would serve 160 families. To control the spread of COVID-19, the center currently serves 23 families. The center also uses many different classrooms so that children may be spread out, and only one teacher per classroom. All staff must wear masks (BruTab brand); staff also work straight shifts instead of split shifts to limit the amount of times people leave and enter the center. The hope is that minimizing reentry limits the chance of bringing in any germs to the center. Childcare providers are also ensuring that everything from door handles to working areas are sanitized multiple times throughout the day.
Daily Routines to Protect Against the Pandemic
Before entering the center, staff are asked the 6 Daily questions, which you can find on the linked PowerPoint. Care providers are not only sanitizing surfaces after every activity using hospital brand sanitizer, but they are sanitizing toys and other utensils using an electro static hydro pump. Items remain in a "yuck bucket" until sanitized so that others will refrain from using them. Meal times are stagnated, and children are sitting no more than 6 feet away from each other at tables. Parents are not allowed into the centers, and when they drop their child off they must wear masks. One center also requires children to wear masks. When children are dropped off, contact less thermometers are used to take temperatures.
Care providers are choosing to "over communicate" with parents. They closely monitor the students, and discuss every part of the day with parents, immediately contacting parents about any changes or if a child gets hurt. One care provider created a reservation form on Google Forms to stay up to date on which families will come to the center each day. The reservation form helps with staffing, and helps with keeping attendance below the allotted amount of students daily.
One provider limited childcare services to only essential families in order to protect against the spread of COVID-19 has been a huge part of the curriculum during the COVID-19. Providers stress the importance of eating healthy to protect the immune system against COVID-19. Providers also engage children in gardening practices. Other than heathy eating, children are working on language and literacy and fine tune practices.
Providers are dealing with challenges of safety. Although they are taking precautions, it remains difficult to guarantee everyone's safety. Although caring for fewer children requires fewer supplies, care providers are also facing challenges with accessing cleaning and food supplies. Many stores are sold out of supplies or they close early. Some care providers have resulted to shopping at certain times of the day and buying supplies that will last for a month instead of a week. Walmart and Sam's club has been good stores to get supplies for the month at great prices. One provider also reached out to her social networks to ask for assistance which was a huge success.
Care providers ask that the support, funding, and advocacy they are currently receiving continues even once we overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. They hope that the case for essential workers and their needs are acknowledged for time to come, as underfunding and feelings of disregard have been an issue long before COVID-19. Some of the more tangible needs include: alcohol wipes, face masks, hand sanitizer, diapers, baby wipes, disinfectant, and bleach. Needs also include community and emotional support and virtual entertainment ideas and resources.