Childcare provider: ‘I’m scared for my business’
Says state guidelines not conducive to caring for children
AS SHE LOOKS TOWARD REOPENING, Tammy Inman, the owner and director of Little Kids childcare center in North Falmouth is scared. “I’m really scared for my business, I’m scared for my families and my teachers,” Inman said.
Her fear does not stem from the coronavirus itself, but from how she will stay in business under strict new guidelines governing how many children she can serve, and from trying to understand how her teachers will care for children if kids cannot share toys or touch one another.
“A huge fear that lies within our families after reading these guidelines is placing their children into settings which are not conducive to caring for young children,” Inman said.
Inman and Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s advocacy campaign Early Education for All, spoke on the Codcast this week about the challenges facing childcare providers – and working parents who rely on them – as daycares consider whether to reopen under new state guidelines.
“Parents, like every other person now living in this new world, are making decisions every day with balancing health and safety concerns from not knowing what can happen with the virus to also thinking about wanting to get back to normal and thinking about their own jobs,” O’Leary said.
The biggest worry Inman has about the guidelines is how she will cut her preschool classes from 19 or 20 students to 10. She may also have to cut kids from younger classes due to new space requirements. “I don’t know how I could in good conscience choose from 76 families who’s allowed to come and who can’t,” she said.
And Inman said she doesn’t know if she can pay her expenses with less tuition money coming in. She has gotten a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program but, she said, “if they allowed me to open with my full enrollment, I wouldn’t have to rely on any subsidies and grants.”
Inman also worries about how to run a program where kids can no longer high five or play with sensory tables, caregivers have to wear gloves and masks to feed a baby a bottle, and parents need to stagger drop-off schedules. “The problem lies with me being told I can’t open my doors unless I follow A, B, and C, and all those things aren’t realistic,” she said.
O’Leary said the childcare system already needed more money before COVID-19 hit. “The way the system is financed left too few children with access to high quality early childhood settings, too many educators living on poverty-level wages, and too many programs one rent payment away from closing down,” she said.Now, O’Leary said, daycare providers will need more money in the short term to deal with the public health crisis and more money in the long term to make the system stronger. Asked where that money could come from, O’Leary said ideally it would come from state or federal funds. “We know the answer is not doubling parent fees,” she said.
O’Leary said she would like to see a “seismic shift” in the childcare system, as society rethinks the relationship between childcare and work – and how to pay for it. “The challenge is building the plane while trying to fly it,” she said.