United Inner City Services implemented several new changes to child care due to COVID-19.
After closing for two months, its two locations had a phased approach to reopening.
"We began on May 18th with our Phase One plan, which allowed for the children of essential workers to come back to our care," UICS CEO, Deidre Anderson said. "And we started the first of June with Phase Two, which allowed others that are working or were just in need of care, to bring their kids back."
As of right now, each center is at a 30 percent capacity. There are about 30 to 40 children in each of their two locations.
Anderson said while they're not sure when they'll get to full capacity, the current number has helped staff to a certain degree, as they juggle with their families at home too.
"Their children's schools are closed, some of them have adult family members that are high-risk categories," Anderson said. "And there's a myriad of challenges for some of the staff returning. It's been a bit of a blessing that not everybody came back immediately. We are wondering though, come August, what that might look like."
Before heading back to work, each staff member was required to go through thorough training; some of which included proper hand washing, proper wearing of a face mask and social distance methods.
Several additional health and safety features have been implemented, including drop-offs.
"The greatest challenge is the fact that parents are not allowed to come into the center," Anderson said. " So they drop their kids off in the breezeway. We take the child's temperature, ask a series of questions about whether or not the child may have been exposed or anyone in the family has been exposed to COVID-19."
She said on the hour, staff members disinfect their areas.
"We're cleaning water fountains, door handles and the common things people are touching," Anderson said. "When our staff leaves the building to go out to lunch when they come back, their temperature is taken again and it's gone smooth."
Each staff member is required to wear a mask inside. Children are not required to wear a mask.
"You know under the age of five, children are doing this with their face all the time," Anderson said. "We're using lots of songs and all kinds of other things to keep the kids distant from one another."
Anderson mentioned how that can be a challenge at times.
"Five-year-olds just want to hug each other, they want to hug you. And a lot of the things we've been telling them about friendships and relationships, now we're saying stay at arm's length," Anderson said. "And that's like a really interesting thing to try and enforce, but the staff and families have truly risen to the occasion. And no matter what the challenge may be on any given day, just seeing the resilience of everyone around us has really made it easier just to do our job."
The team also updated its lunch protocol.
"Normally it would be family meal style. We're not doing that anymore," Anderson said. "They get a to-go container with their own food. Each child has a Ziploc bag with their own markers and crayons and they're not getting into the community basket of things ."
She said staff members are sanitizing toys and materials on a regular basis.
"And then minimizing the number of children that are here allows us to keep the proper distance when they're taking their naps too," Anderson said.
While they're not at full capacity, some families who were eligible did not come back.
"Many families aren't comfortable so they have found other accommodations," Anderson said.
However, for each one of their families who may not be going to the center, virtual lessons are taught.
"It's one situation at a time. Every family, even the families that are not here, they're getting a phone call and a touch from someone every day," Anderson said. "So even the kids that are not here, we're still doing virtual lessons. We do it now in the classrooms, versus from the teacher's home."
Additional materials are also sent via text, email and mail.
"And then we're continuing to distribute groceries and other supports to families, so we can be sure that it allows them to have someone to connect with," Anderson said.
UICS and other childcare facilities are following recommendations from the CDC, local health departments and American Pediatrics.
Here are some of the CDC recommendations:
- Implement social distancing strategies
- Intensify cleaning and disinfectant efforts
- Modify drop off and pick up procedures
- Implement screening procedures upon arrival
- Make sure there's an adequate ratio of staff to children to ensure safety
If you feel a facility isn't following certain guidelines, you can call your state licensing representative to do a check of the facility.