Daycare diaries: What childcare looks like during pandemic

Coronavirus

Call 211 for information on emergency childcare in your community

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This story is for parents at home who have been asking about who can watch their children. Under Governor Kate Brown’s order, child care providers were directed to close their businesses unless they could provide emergency childcare — care for those who absolutely need it, which right now is Oregon’s essential workers.

Doctors, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, the list goes on.

Officials have said if you can and have the means to, keep your children at home.

A box of toys and small Easter display is set up outside Shannon’s Child Care and Preschool in Portland. April 10, 2020 (KOIN)

“All of our families right now are medical workers, they are in transport, some are in the grocery industry, law enforcement and some are DHS,” said Shannon Aden, owner of the Portland daycare.

About half of Oregon’s 4,000 licensed childcare providers have stepped up as emergency childcare, including Shannon’s Child Care in Portland. These providers have been asked to do more complex work, such as taking the temperatures of children daily, following new processes for drop off and pick up, and doing more frequent cleaning.

“We are trying to keep their emotional stability there too and put a smile on their parents’ face,” said Aden. “So we’ve gone to a treasure box in the morning, happy-happy-happy in the door. Coats come off, shoes come off right at the front door, parents can’t come in [any] longer. Spray down with disinfectant, take off their shoes and coats, then they are straight to the bathroom to wash their hands. It’s just weird and the whole time we have to keep a smile on our face and be happy-happy-happy.”

At daycare, providers go the extra mile to send pictures home to parents to help them feel more at ease. Aden said despite the stress and the nine to 11-hour days, she would still rather be working with kids than at home.

“I think it’s crucial that the child care can take the burden off the parents’ hands,” said Aden. “We are on the frontlines with those parents, we are essential. Without child care parents cant go to work.”

There is also more work being done to expand childcare benefits to support families. Officials have increased the income guidelines so that more essential workers can qualify for the assistance program, and the state got rid of co-pays for eligible families. For essential workers to get a referral for childcare, they can call 211 to get information about available openings.

“We have a lot of availability right now with experienced providers who understand and know and have the backgrounds to be able to implement a lot of these safety measures that we are asking them to take right now,” said Miriam Calderon, Oregon’s Early Learning System Director.

Shannon’s Child Care and Preschool in Portland. April 10, 2020 (KOIN)

It’s estimated that there are about 10,000 available slots across Oregon, and there is a capacity for 20,000 children. Officials are monitoring availability by county. If there is a greater need for child care, the Department of Education can ask school districts to provide emergency childcare for school-aged kids.

“Right now we have received about 2500 applications per licensed provider to provide emergency child care. To date, we’ve processed about 1900 and are estimating we have capacity for about 20-thousand emergency child care slots around the state,” said Calderon.

If you are an essential worker who needs childcare, you can call 211. The Oregon Department of Education has also posted multiple resources online: frequently asked questions for families, tools for finding childcare, who is considered an essential worker and general news updates.

“We are really hoping that emergency child care will only be utilized for families that absolutely need emergency child care,” stressed Calderon.

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