When the EEC published their Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety on June 1, family child care programs, as well as other child care settings, were shocked and dismayed. How could Providers make so many changes in so little time?
In response to the requirements, Providers spoke up, and the EEC listened. On June 8, the EEC released key updates that made reopening family child care programs more manageable.
However, even with these new updates, Providers will still have to make substantial changes and adapt to a new way of operating their FCCs. Like you, I have read these updated requirements, re-read them, highlighted key phrases, and mulled them over. Here are my thoughts:
This is going to be hard!
There’s no doubt about it. Providers will each need to put in hours of planning and re-making your child care environment to meet these new requirements. It will take time and you will need to be patient with yourself because it’s unlikely you will get it perfectly right, at least not at first.
Find support in the community
Family child care folks are some of the hardest working and adaptable people I have ever met. It has always astounded me to see the incredibly creative ways that you all meet the state regulations, embed educational best practices, and do it all in your family’s home. And no one multi-tasks like a family child care Provider! Take advantage of every partner you can find, whether it’s a family child care support group, your child care system, NeighborSchools, Strong Start Professional Learning Communities, your licensor, or EEC “Town Halls.” Use the resources they offer and let them know what other resources you need.
Another great way to tackle the job ahead is to form a “study group.” Identify 2-3 other family child care Providers who are willing to put your heads together and help one another. Find some partners and your work may be a bit lighter!
Get creative and think outside the box
Remember that there are “many right ways” to follow any regulation. Avoid comparing your procedures to what you’ve always done before.
Here’s just one example: Turn physical distancing into a game for the children. Buy colored painter’s tape to make safe and fun paths around your program. Put down “spots” of colored cardboard or contact paper, just big enough for a small bottom and a few toys. Now each child has their very own space to use. Match that color to the child’s individual cups and divided Bento boxes. Children will be thrilled if you fill individual containers with crayons, markers, paintbrushes, individual playdough, a few books, and toys. The toys and books can be rotated every few days after cleaning and sanitizing. This may not teach sharing, but what child doesn’t love having their very own box of toys? It’ll be wonderful to indulge these small children in some materials that are all their own!
This is an opportunity for family child care to shine!
Many of the requirements for re-opening are actually the strengths that are unique to family child care: flexible schedules, small groups, low ratios, siblings together in the same room, and individual attention to children’s needs. Families who are hesitant to send their children back to large child care centers will look to family child care as a safe place for the child.
I think the most powerful strength that family child care offers are close relationships with children and families. As children return to your care and for the coming months, your focus will need to be on the social and emotional needs of the children who are fully aware of the huge challenges we all have faced. Where better to have a child feel secure, safe, and loved than in a family child care home? You may not be able to hug and kiss the children, but I have no doubt you will find creative, amazing, and fun ways to show the love you have for children.
This is a shining moment for our field of family child care, and for you as well. Do what you do best, let your strengths shine, and be recognized as the best place for children to be!
Linda Schumacher, M.Ed., is an early childhood development specialist and a well-known figure among child care professionals in Massachusetts. She ran her own Licensed Home Daycare program for years and now is a trainer for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care, facilitating the orientation courses that Providers must complete in order to receive a license and open a program. She is an advisor for NeighborSchools. Visit Linda’s website or follow her on Facebook.
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