Family has run child care programs since the early days when our staff needed someone to watch their little ones while they helped build the organization. But as the world of child care became more regulated and Family grew more crisis programs, the cultures diverged. “Child care is very regulated. There’s lots of reporting and not much room for non-directive guidance. It isn’t sexy or attention getting,” observes Kerry Wolfeil, who has been with Family for 24 years.
But here we are in COVID 19. Child Care is now critical. It is an essential service.
Family’s Child Care Connections staff, which supports dozens of daycare centers and in-home providers in three counties, and the families who need and use them, is busier than ever. “We are working remotely, with only one or two staff at each office (Kingston and Hudson). Everyone else is working from home so staying connected is a challenge.” Most of the day is spent taking phone calls from providers who are concerned about losing their business or dealing with challenging behaviors. They have lost most of their enrollment but are willing to care for the children of essential workers, however families are threatening to leave the program if unfamiliar children start the program. They have children in their home daycare who are usually in school settings, many getting special services. Kerry is sympathetic. “The providers aren’t trained to deal with these situations. They call us and we talk them through, but we can’t do field visits. We are used to being hands-on.”
Kerry’s staff is going through the same ups and downs as the rest of the population. Worried, isolated, uncertain. And what if there is no summer camp or school in September? How will they return to work themselves? “We are trying to walk the line, doing what we are supposed to do for health and safety but making sure the kids get the socializing they need. The restrictions are next to impossible in a child care setting. Children of all ages are supposed to be discouraged from sharing toys? Groups of children are not allowed? Providers are supposed to interact with an infant with a mask on? We do the best we can but it is hard on everyone.”