A look at child care in CNY during the pandemic

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Long before the pandemic struck Onondaga County, child care was already in a state of crisis, according to Lori Schakow, who works for Child Care Solutions. Before COVID-19 hit Central New York, Schakow said only 30 percent of the child care demand was being met.

“I just fear that many of these programs, if we don’t support them now, are not going to be there in the future when parents decide that they want them again,” Schakow said.

A loss of business was almost a reality for Marybeth Schuffenecker, who’s been running a day care out of her home for 35 years. After schools closed back in March, Schuffenecker lost half of the kids she was taking care of. Before the pandemic, she watched 12 kids total, with only eight coming in at a time. Then, with many parents staying home, she was down to watching only two kids.

“It was a little tough, I did miss the kids. But they’re all back, so I’m, we’re doing much better,” Schuffenecker said.

Schuffenecker’s clients stepped up and paid her through June, even though they weren’t sending their kids to day care at the time. If they didn’t do that, Schuffenecker said she would have had to close down, file for unemployment, and then re-register when the timing was right.

“Thank God my parents were awesome and kept me going,” Schuffenecker said.

Other daycares haven’t been as lucky. Schakow works for Child Care Solutions, which oversees registered facilities in Onondaga and Cayuga counties. With many schools going remote, Schakow thought parents would be in desperate need of child care. However, that’s not the case. In fact, many slots are still open and some parents are refusing to put their kids in group care.

“Two reasons. One, fear. I think that’s probably the primary driver. But the second one is that not all parents are back to work yet,” said Lori Schakow, Executive Director at Child Care Solutions.

Some parents are now relying on drop-in programs or family and friends to watch the kids, none of which is regulated by the state, according to Schakow.

“It concerns me because it’s impacting the programs that are registered and licensed. Families are not sending their children to those programs,” Schakow said.

In the meantime, people like Schuffenecker are starting to welcome back kids they’ve been watching for years, one day at a time.

“There was a lot of trust going on. I wanted this to be a safe place for the children,” Schuffenecker said.

Schakow said though the drop-in programs that are popping up are not regulated, she hasn’t gotten any complaints about them. As for the daycares in Onondaga and Cayuga counties? Only one facility has been hit by the spread of COVID-19.

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