There is no doubt that the Novel Coronavirus is making its presence and power known to us all.
Even amidst all the fear and panic, there are some things to be thankful for….
- Thankfully, good hand-washing habits will go a long way toward protecting each of us so long as we do it.
- Thankfully, many employers are allowing their employees to work from home.
- Thankfully, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Mercer Island School District (MISD) have remained open. https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/as-schools-around-the-region-make-tough-calls-on-coronavirus-seattle-public-schools-announce-they-will-remain-open/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_inset_1.1&fbclid=IwAR2Qj6VUTJu3Y3_T-48rHSNBB2u0Prx7apeirHeXM497JXKVENz-UimguBQ
There is, however, some other impacts all of us should plan for. I share the following “food for thought” not to scare you but to help families and business be fully informed about the impact COVID-19 could have on licensed child care – the one service that keeps employees working and business functioning.
One important topic that hasn’t been covered by news media that will have a tremendous impact on business and working families is the impact of COVID-19 on licensed child care programs, particularly those programs that are on-site at public elementary schools. If schools shut down, vulnerable families are at a higher risk of being negatively impacted.
If SPS and/or MISD decided to close any or all of their schools, Kids Co. and every other on-site program will be closed too.
There are other factors that could cause licensed child care programs to close:
- Licensed child care is required to maintain very specific teacher-to-child ratios. As the virus spreads, if enough child care teachers are absent from work and programs are unable to maintain those ratios, centers may have to close. There are significant fines up to and including revoking a program’s license to operate could be imposed for violating teacher-to-child ratios.
Solution: If a program has a plan that addresses the safety of children, the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) could temporarily relax teacher-to-child ratios so programs are not out of compliance. This could allow programs to utilize the staff who are able to work such that the program could stay open.
- DCYF has specific rules related to maximum group size for each room of a center. A program cannot exceed the maximum capacity for any room. There are significant fines up to and including revoking a program’s license to operate could be imposed for violating maximum capacity.
Solution: If a program can show they have a plan to keep kids safe, the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) could temporarily relax maximum group size per room so that programs are not out of compliance. This would allow programs to move staff and kids within the program to have better teacher-to-child ratios keeping the program open for care to working families who do not have the luxury of working from home.
- Licensed child care programs clean and disinfect their facilities and toys regularly. Due to local stores and markets as well as on-line sources being completely sold out of cleaning supplies, centers are running out of cleaning supplies that are needed to clean and disinfect as needed. Should this happen, centers may have to close until they are able to get cleaning and disinfecting products.
Solution: Families, businesses, and other community resources could donate cleaning and disinfecting supplies to licensed child care programs. To keep kids and staff safe, program need have these supplies.
Kids Co. is actively working to help all licensed programs receive temporary regulatory relief on teacher-to-child ratios and maximum capacity rules. Keep in mind that even if DCYF is able to relax regulations, there is a point at which Kids Co. may not have enough staff to remain open.
Let’s all work hard to keep licensed child care programs open for ALL families, but especially for those families that need it most.