A new set of California state guidelines for accessibility to day cares means some people who are relying on friends and neighbors to watch their children might have a different option. But will they use it? And what are the COVID-19 rules for child care centers?
Here are some answers to questions around childcare under stay-at-home orders.
What do we know about the rules that went into effect this week?
The new rules give essential workers of all income levels access to government subsidized child care, preschool, and after-school programs. And it provides food for them too. The providers can now use a new provision in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is usually called SNAP and was formerly food stamps, to make sure every child has meals and snacks regardless of income.
What about the guidelines to restrict the spread of the virus for kids at day care?
We had a listener ask “Is there a mandate for child care facilities to ensure social distancing for kids? If not, why? If so, then how is compliance enforced?”
Guidelines mirror the state directives that have been in place for weeks now: six feet of personal space, stay home if you feel sick. Some counties have upped those guidelines to enforceable orders, but health officers have said that’s a last resort.
Daycares should have kids use tape or ribbon or other crafts to make their own social distance area. Facilities should air the place out before the day begins and after it’s over. And one more thing: they should keep the same children in the same group with the same teacher. And if there are children from the same family who can be put together, so much the better.
But not everyone has day care. Do the rules apply to neighbors caring for neighbors?
The new state directive from health and human services says it contains “guidance” and “healthy practices” for child care licensees and providers. We know some people are taking friends’ children or grandchildren during the day while the parents are at work. Ideal, under the stay-at-home order? It depends. The state says these situations, which are exempt from state licensing, must follow the same rules of distancing, temperature-taking and hand washing. Parent cooperatives are not required to be licensed, according to the California Department of Social Services.
Some people don’t want to, or can’t, leave the kids home. What can they do?
Some parents don’t want to leave their kids home because they’re too young, or because they’re old enough to get into trouble if left unsupervised. I found a business in Sutter Creek in Amador County with three groups of kids whose families work there.
Jessie Campbell is co-owner of Campbell Construction, which is considered essential. She and her employees all have kids they consider essential, ages 7-14, who maybe shouldn’t be left home by themselves for several months straight.
“Leaving them with younger siblings all day long every single day, that was just a no-go for me,” Campbell said.
She took one of those single-wide trailers they use for operations on a construction site and turned it into a classroom. The social distancing is not good, which they recognized, so the parents sat down and had a talk.
“We kind of just decided that we’re pulling each other into what would be considered our immediate family and trusting each other not to go outside of that,” Campbell said.
Are they following state guidelines?
We reached out to the California Department of Public Health media office about the Campbell plan regarding communal social distancing. CDPH referred us to its social distancing guidelines, but otherwise said nothing.
“If we decide to weigh in on this issue, we will let you know,” the media office said in an email.
With regards to outsiders, yes, and staying home if sick, yes, the Campbells say they are following guidelines. They actually have a stricter policy about fevers. The state says anyone with a fever under 100.4 should be allowed to attend day care. Campbell says any if anyone shows a fever before the parents head to work then both the parents and kids stay home.
Are they going to send the kids to daycare now that they can? With their income they previously wouldn’t have qualified for subsidized child care.
They are not taking the government up on its offer because it would just introduce more opportunities for the families in this business to be exposed.
“You don’t know about other parents,” she said.
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