SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Many have heard the Onondaga County Executive, Ryan McMahon, mention Childcare Solutions in his daily COVID-19 briefings. They’re the ones taking the reigns, making sure essential workers have someone to take care of their kids each day.
As of now, there are 372 childcare facilities still open for essential workers between Onondaga and Cayuga Counties. Since that care is free, those at Childcare Solutions expected a lot more people would be taking advantage of it and they’d be getting more calls with parents in search of that care. But, that’s not the case.
“There is a lot of openings I would say it fluctuates between 1,700 and 1,300 spots on any given day that are available as parents come and go in the various daycare programs,” said Lori Schakow, the Executive Director at Childcare Solutions.
Schakow said this may be because parents are choosing not to send their kids and seeking other alternatives like having a neighbor or an elderly family member look after their children. Both options she said are not as safe as going with a registered and licensed facility.
“They are doing everything they can to keep these children safe because quite frankly, it also keeps themselves as caregivers safe and their families safe,” Schakow said.
To date, Schakow said there are no reports of COVID-19 cases in daycare centers in their coverage area.
While Schakow understand parents may be hesitant to send their kids to a facility with a group of other people, there are new regulations in place to keep them safe during the pandemic. Now, each facility is not allowed to have more than ten people in one room, including the provider. They’re doing daily health checks at the door, sending kids home if they have a temperature of 100 degrees or more. If they exhibit symptoms throughout the day, they’ll be put in isolation until their parents can pick them up. Daycare centers are also doing more sanitizing and making sure the kids are washing their hands frequently.
It’s a strange new normal for providers like the North Area Family YMCA, one of two YMCA’s open for daycare involving essential workers right now. The other facility remaining open is the Hal Welsh East Area Family YMCA in Fayetteville.
“Our lives and our regular routines have been kind of upended,” said Caitlin Alcott, a Senior Program Director of Youth Development for the YMCA. “And it kind of presents in anxiety for different people in different ways. I think we’re seeing it in our participants in that they’re used to going to school, they’re used to being in that community classroom with all their same aged peers. And now they’re transitioning to online learning.”
Facilities like the North Area “Y” are getting creative, doing activities to keep the kids at a distance while still allowing them to play. But they’re there many times for 12 hours in the day until their parents are off of work. They used to only come in in the mornings and afternoons.
“For older groups, those 8-12 year olds, were definitely seeing that they are processing it a little bit more. All of our kids are understanding that germs are spreading and that’s why we have to do this. But, the older group is definitely processing, ‘Okay, I’m actually not going back into my school building until at least September right now.’ So they’re processing more of those social hardships,” Alcott said.
Places like the YMCA are excited to see more kids walk through their doors in the future. But many worry parents simply may not be sending their kids to a daycare any time soon.
“There’s a fear for some providers that many of those previously enrolled children are not coming back. When you look at those low wage workers that are collecting that extra $600 in unemployment benefits, they’re reluctant to go back to work right away, so they may not be returning soon,” Schakow said.
A different story than what childcare looked like before the pandemic, where Schakow said it was in a state of crisis.
“Obviously the pandemic didn’t solve the childcare crisis, but it did help to shine a light on it and I hope that a silver lining that comes out of this is that people are paying far more attention to childcare than they have in 30 or 40 years now,” Schakow said.
Schakow said the Childcare Solutions building in Syracuse is closed to the public and they’re not doing their regular inspections. However, if any parent has a complaint about a facility, they can still call their facility at (315) 446-1220.
Addtionally, Schakow and many others also believe childcare workers may not be getting the show of attention they deserve, putting their lives on the line by caring for the children of those who are on the front lines.
Friday, May 8th is National Provider Appreciation Day. With grant money from the government, those at Childcare Solutions will be handing out essential goodies like sanitizer and thermometers to daycare centers. They encourage others show their appreciation, as well.