The EEC has promised to release new guidelines this week to help home daycare Providers across Massachusetts open their doors on or before June 29. We’re expecting these new health and safety protocols to guide us into the “new normal” of child care that has been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. But will the guidelines be comprehensive or realistic enough to be put into action?
In the last two months while daycares have been closed, we have spoken to others in the Provider community about what questions they have for the EEC and the future of home daycares. Here are the top 5 questions that we hope the EEC will be able to answer when they release their health and safety protocols:
1. What are the new protocols?
This is the top and most daunting question on every Provider’s mind. We’ve heard a bit from Emergency Care Providers about their new routines—not allowing parents into the home, taking temperatures multiple times a day, wearing masks as much as possible, using disposable utensils when providing meals—but the extent of what exactly will change is not fully known. And when these measures are announced, how realistic will they be? For example, a six-foot distance at all times within a home daycare is nearly impossible. Also, not being able to hug or carry a child seems excruciatingly difficult. We’re also wondering what this will mean for Licensor visits. If the new protocols aren’t realistic, are we just being set up for failure?
2. Will ratios be slashed?
Some are predicting that ratios will be cut. This is a major point of anxiety with so many consequences. If numbers are slashed, that means that some families within our daycares can’t return. And if that’s the case, how do we break the news to the families? Not to mention, a lot of daycares also have more than one child per family enrolled, so it’s unclear how Providers are expected to navigate this tricky situation. We’re also worried about the families’ wellbeing. How will they be able to find another child care option if all other Providers and child care centers are undergoing the same cuts too?
3. Will we be compensated for lost families?
Loss of enrollments means loss of income. If enrollments are slashed, how will Providers be subsidized for that loss? We expect the EEC to have a plan in place to financially support Providers through this change, but we are not sure for how long and if it will completely match the amount of income we were seeing before COVID-19.
4. How will we be able to find and afford cleaning supplies and PPE?
We know the new health and safety protocols will have a stringent set of guidelines when it comes to sanitation. Providers have always been great at maintaining a clean, well-kept daycare. However, we have concerns about finding the right supply of disinfectants, cleaning agents, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to maintain the standards set in place by these new protocols. Disinfectants and PPE are in short stock across the country. Plus, keeping an adequate supply is expensive. We hope that the EEC will also be covering some of the costs of these needs, especially if they will be required for the foreseeable future.
5. How do we communicate these changes to parents?
We’ve been refreshing the EEC page almost every other minute waiting for updates, and we know that other Providers across Massachusetts have been doing the same. But parents are not on the EEC’s website or subscribe to their mailing list. It’ll be on us, the Providers, to inform them of these changes, and what they mean for their family. From possible new paperwork requirements, new drop-off procedures, and helping their children prepare for yet another adjustment in their daily routine, we need to communicate this shift to parents sooner than later. We are looking to the EEC to give us a playbook on how to approach these conversations with parents and have them well-prepared in advance of the first day of daycare reopening.
Providers Need Answers
These questions are just the beginning of what Providers need to be addressed by the EEC as we prepare to reopen child care and welcome back families. And we need answers soon.
We’ve heard heartbreaking stories from Providers. Some Providers are unsure if they’ll be able to stay open because of the new guidelines. This cannot happen. Home daycares are needed more than ever. Children need a safe haven to grow, thrive, and play. Parents need to be able to return to work to support their families and our economy. We must restore communities and neighborhoods. And Providers cannot be lost. The expertise and devotion home daycare Providers have is unmatched and indispensable.
A positive outcome of all of this uncertainty is that it has brought Providers together to form a stronger community. We are leaning on each other for support and guidance as we take on this new world. That is why as a community we have to let the EEC know that they must take the right action now to preserve home daycares and empower Providers. The future of child care depends on it.
What questions are we missing?
This is a shortlist of the questions we’ve heard from the Provider community, but we want to hear from you. Post your most pressing question to our Facebook page and let your voice be heard!
When the EEC releases the new protocols, make sure to check back here. We’ll take a deep dive into what the new guidelines mean for home daycare Providers and the families in their community.