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As CT Readies To Reopen, Parents Face Child Care Gap in Towns

As CT Readies To Reopen, Parents Face Child Care Gap in Towns

CT Post, May 7, 2020

By Alexander Soule

As a six-week gap looms closer between Connecticut’s target date to reopen businesses and the commencement of summer camps, many parents could be scrambling to find supervision for younger children who are continuing their classwork using distance learning.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday that school buildings will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, while setting June 29 as the first day that summer camps can open — with extraordinary precautions to reduce the odds of further spread of the coronavirus.

Camps, however, will provide a less potent relief valve than they do most summers. Some municipal and private operation have said they will not open this year.

With Lamont’s “stay-at-home” executive order scheduled to lift on May 20, allowing many “non-essential” businesses to resume more normal operations, employers might have to allow flexibility for parents who cannot find acceptable or affordable care options for their kids during the day. Connecticut is circulating a survey on worker attitudes toward reentering workplaces, with broad questions on child care needs included. 

The Connecticut Office of Early Education is gathering advice from experts on how to help families find supervision and educational support for children as parents are summoned back to work.

Commissioner Beth Bye said Wednesday most child-care centers that had closed during the emergency plan to resume operations, but said demand could be far greater from families who structure their work lives around school hours. “They are ... hearing from families saying, ‘We’re going to have to go back to work — what’s your status?’” Bye said. “The reality is that parents ... depend on child care to work, and child care is critical infrastructure for our state’s economy.”

There could be a scramble for available seats to see families through the end of June, when at least some summer camps will open. Until then, some families will require supervision in the home or another setting for their children.

During Lamont’s daily update on the state’s response to coronavirus, Bye said parents have been able to rely on family and friends and that many will be able to make it through the next few months with that support network. And she added there is existing capacity throughout the state at child care centers, with Connecticut providing referrals through its 2-1-1 call center line and website.

There could be a scramble for available seats to see families through the end of June, when at least some summer camps will open. Until then, some families will require supervision in the home or another setting for their children. 

 

Capacity of care centers back to top

During Lamont’s daily update on the state’s response to coronavirus, Bye said parents have been able to rely on family and friends and that many will be able to make it through the next few months with that support network. And she added there is existing capacity throughout the state at child care centers, with Connecticut providing referrals through its 2-1-1 call center line and website. 

As of Wednesday, the 2-1-1 website listed within a five-mile radius of most locales in southern and western Connecticut anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred licensed day care facilities. Rates vary broadly according to locale and setting, from $60 a week for school-age children to more than $500 for those in preschool.

With support from the CTCares fund administered by the Office of Early Childhood, the YMCA Greenwich is accommodating about 40 preschool-age children with capacity for more. The agency has added instructional support for older children attending during regular school hours.

“We will be looking into all avenues of expansion, based upon demand,” said Michael Kelly, chief operating officer of YMCA Greenwich.

Another small army may be in the offing to provide assistance in the short term — college students who will have wrapped up their own studies by the third week of May. Some have spent a portion of their teen years minding neighborhood children for extra cash. More may be open to the idea, given a possible shortage of summer jobs in traditional landing spots like restaurants and entertainment venues.

Families could face similar a similar conundrum in the fall, with the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education confirming on Tuesday that some schools are considering dual sessions daily in order to provide more space for social distancing in classrooms, corridors and cafeterias. Camps are working up similar guidelines — with the number of openings still unknown six weeks in advance of the June 29 start date.

“Parents will be patching things together for a few months, for sure,” Bye said. “We’re in for some disruption, and I think as a state we have to stay flexible and ready and find ways to support the existing providers, because they do play a critical role in their communities.”