March 24, 2020

Childcare in a locked down world

Susan Dumars, President, Continuing Development Inc.

A recent television news headline asked, “Can day cares stay open amid coronavirus outbreak?”

The answer has been confusing to many – school are closed, shouldn’t childcare centers be, too?  Why are these groups of people okay but not others? What about the safety of the kids and staff? Shouldn’t these employees be working from home like everyone else? Since everyone is at home anyway, why would they need childcare?

California, like several other states, has declared childcare an essential service. Why is that, you might ask. It’s not like nurses, or grocery workers, or food service providers, or police officers – those are people who really need to be out there, doing their jobs in times of crisis. But in order for those essential workers to be out keeping us safe or ensuring we’re able to buy food for our families, or caring for the sick, they need to know their children are cared for in a safe, supportive environment. Childcare workers are essential to our communities being able to function, because they directly support those other workers essential to our communities being able to function.

In recent days our centers across California have continued to operate wherever possible (in some cases school districts have shut down campuses and included our centers in the closure). We have done so according to state and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines around numbers of people allowed in one room, and adhered to a vigorous deep cleaning regimen, beyond even our usual hypervigilant cleaning standards. As of this writing there have been no cases of covid-19 in any of our staff or children; if even one case materialized that center would immediately close for a period of deep cleaning and review.

In that period, we’ve analyzed exactly who has been using our centers across the state. We have found farmers, grocery store employees, military and national guard, water district employees, police officers, caregivers for the elderly, numerous healthcare workers and even other childcare workers. In Rocklin, a heart surgeon has sent their child to our local center so they can go into their workplace, performing life-saving work. We’ve been caring for their children of all ages (we’re even launching a new “pop-up camp program” for middle-school aged kids in some communities so these essential workers know their teenaged children have a safe place to be as well). We’re still going to work so they can go to work with one less thing to worry about.

The work of a childcare employee is often unsung. As we wrap up the first week of the Bay Area “sheltering in place” a major newspaper in the area provided a list of essential services during this time of crisis, forgetting to cite childcare. It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last. We don’t get into this business for the glory or spotlight, but we’re always there, in the background, supporting our communities and ensuring those who need to be on the front lines, keeping us safe, keeping us fed, or curing the sick have the supports they need. We’ll be out there for the duration, doing our part in these uncertain times.

Find open centers near you here. We update this list throughout each week.