This is an essay written by a current Kennedy Family Child Care parent.
As an essential service, childcare providers in California were never mandated to close. Some have been open for the duration of the pandemic (such as Kennedy Family Child Care), while others re-opened in recent months after retooling their spaces and operating protocols. While some families kept their kids home last spring, most of them came back as we learned more about how to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Licensed childcare providers have always operated under strict safety guidelines (see this for a whiff of what’s expected), but things ramped up even more after COVID-19, as mandated by the LA County Department of Public Health. These protocols include daily health screenings, mask wearing for everyone age 2 and older, and small, stable groups.
Providers have adapted to stricter regulations for cleaning and infection control, and found creative solutions to help children keep their distance from one another. What providers are doing is largely working: there have been just a handful of COVID-19 outbreaks in child care settings. And frankly, due to these higher measures, my child has not gotten sick except for some seasonal allergies. [FINGERS CROSSED].
1. Actually Being Able to Work
I am an essential worker with set hours, so being able to focus 100% on work was crucial for serving my community. Early in the pandemic, my job was also on the chopping block. Having access to dependable child care enabled me to fight to keep my job (and knowing that not having child care could spell disastrous for me professionally). I’m forever indebted to Paty and her team for the stability they provided my family during this stressful time.
2. Being part of a Pod.
Parenting was never meant to be lonely, but our experience through COVID-19 has not been a lonely one because of Paty, her team, and the other families enrolled at KFCC. We are a pod, one formed out of necessity, but now we only have each other, and thank heavens for that. During dips in COVID-19 daily case counts, we socialize with other families that are part of KFCC (only one at a time, always outdoors). We even did swim lessons with one kid (super socially distanced, in adherence to County health guidelines). Through our group text chat, we tried to make sense of ever-changing guidelines and coordinated the procurement of PPE and cleaning supplies – this spoke volumes to the shared solidarity of our parent community and the strength of Paty’s leadership.
3. Socialization & Learning
They say that play is the work of children – and high quality preschool is transformative and ensures strong outcomes. Being able to continue sending my son to a high quality child care program has provided him with stability. Wilshire has continued to learn and thrive because he’s enrolled at KFCC. He has “projects”, he is read to in English and Spanish, he’s had to learn how to cooperate with the other children, wait his turn, and keep his mask on. Wilshire also gets plenty of screen time when he’s at home (we aren’t purists); at Paty’s, he has other children to interact with (even 6 feet apart), a playground, toys, etc.
4. Feeding Picky Eaters
Any parent who has a kid who’s a picky eater at home but eats whatever is placed in front of them at school can intuit why this is important, and also a thing.
5. Supporting a Local Business.
In a time when child care providers everywhere are struggling to stay afloat, we take our ability to enroll our child full time very seriously. Collectively our enrolled families are keeping an important business sector open and people employed.
Understandably, there are tradeoffs. Sending your child to daycare has its risks and its tradeoffs. We don’t see other friends and family. And as we’re deep into another surge, we realize how our ability to keep going to daycare hinges on the choices all of us make to stay local and keep our distance from anyone not at KFCC’s. For now, we keep our fingers crossed and keep putting on our face masks whenever we leave home.
Sirinya Matute is a current parent. Her son started in June 2016.