Are You Ready for “Back-to-Childcare”?

Things to think about in order to keep your kids, family, and community safe this season

Are you one of the many parents starting to head back to work this fall? Whether you’re coming off maternity leave, starting a new school year as an educator, beginning a new job after a layoff, or returning to your office after a long break, this season may bring with it the need for child care. But, with COVID-19 continuing to be a concern, what should you do?

Today we’re focusing on some important things to think about as you’re trying to decide on the best and safest plan for your family’s return to child care.

What are my options?

As the first step in your research on childcare options in your local area, check out the helpful map and associated resources from Child Care Aware of America. You can see the status and latest updates related to child care in your state—and also learn about state-by-state policies on group size limits and staff-to-child ratios.

Of course you might also consider having someone come to your home to provide child care—whether a few days per week, or on a more fulltime or even live-in basis. Websites like care.com can help you search for, and find, your perfect caregiver. Or, do you have a local friend or family member who would be able and interested in helping you out with your child care needs? You could offer to compensate the person for their time and effort.

How do I know if a childcare facility or provider is safe?

That is the million-dollar question, and your comfort with the answers provided by your potential childcare options will likely drive the bulk of your decision-making this fall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance for childcare programs in this time of COVID-19. It is worth reviewing this document in advance of speaking with local childcare facilities in your area.

Here are some specifics that you should inquire about:

How are staff and children being monitored?  For instance, what sort of testing, and how often, is the staff undergoing? What rules are in place to keep kids with symptoms or known exposure to COVID-19 from entering the facility? (Also: are parents or other individuals being allowed into the facility—and, if so, what are the rules for them?)

What sort of hygiene and cleaning procedures and rules are in place?  Like, are kids/staff required to wash their hands upon entering the facility; when else? How often are bathrooms, surfaces, toys, etc. being cleaned and disinfected? Are there any concerns about the ventilation system?

What about personal protective equipment (PPE)?  Will staff be wearing masks all the time? Are children (depending on their age) being asked to do so as well?

What is being done about physical distancing?  How has the facility been modified to allow for six feet of space between people? Will outdoor spaces be used? What sorts of activities will the children be doing in light of social-distancing guidelines?

What happens if someone who has been at the childcare facility tests positive for COVID19?  What is the plan if a staff member, child, or other person who has been on the premises tests positive? How will parents be informed? Will the facility shut down for a period of time; if so, how long?

What should I do if I want to hire someone to provide child care in my home? 

If you’re thinking about having a childcare provider come to your house, ask the same sorts of questions as above. You need to feel as good as you possibly can that this person is taking their own health, and the health of your entire family, as seriously as possible.

You should find out what precautions the prospective childcare provider is taking day to day. Are they always wearing a mask in public indoor spaces or where physical distancing isn’t possible?

Also, of course, what is the person’s previous experience with child care, and can they provide any references you could speak with? Have they had a background check? Etc.

Ultimately, you’ve got to go with your gut this fall when it comes to the decision on whether or not to send your little one(s) to a childcare facility—and/or how you feel about having someone come into your home to provide this service. We know it can be an incredibly tough decision—and we wish you nothing but wisdom, health, and the ability to make the best of a challenging situation.

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