As childcare centers in Massachusetts close their doors on Monday, a number of emergency sites are opening to allow frontline workers in the battle against the coronavirus to get to their jobs. Options include reopened childcare centers as well as home care offered by hundreds of government-approved education officials to provide temporary care in an emergency.
The state calls on families to “keep children from group care settings as much as possible,” Mass.gov said in a statement, instructing families to use emergency childcare only as “backup care.” “
The priority under the new system will be for families deemed “vulnerable” by the state, as well as for these groups, according to the website:
- Medical workers
- Major government and human servants
- COVID-19 Healthcare Professionals
- Grocery store employees
- Emergency personnel
- Law enforcement
- Transport and infrastructure workers
- Sanitary workers
- DCF families
- Families living in shelters
A list of providers was provided on Saturday by the Ministry of Early Education and Care.
Lauren Cook, who heads the Ellis Center for Early Education in Boston, said the health of childcare workers should also be taken into account.
“I hope there are enough [suppliers to meet the demand],” Cook said. “I think there is still fear from early childhood providers that we make sure that our workforce is safe if they step up.”
The state claims that it will prioritize the tests of emergency workers exposed to or symptomatic of COVID-19. Cook, however, said it would not reopen – this is because she is pregnant and it is unclear whether it is safe to be around people exposed to the virus.
In addition to emergency childcare, Cook suggested that small, local alternatives be considered.
“It’s a good idea for people to explore all their options, whether it’s to introduce fees to different neighborhood groups or websites, because people need income and healthy people trying to make money looking after children. I’m sure I would prefer to work in smaller settings, “she said.
Among the thousands of workers responding to the coronavirus is Natalie Taylor of Dorchester, a 4-year-old mother who works as a nurse at Matapan Community Health Center.
Taylor said she has been allowed to work from home for several weeks and practice telemedicine so that her husband can continue to operate his surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital. Taylor hopes he can get the same idle time to work from home – though it’s a difficult job when working for a hospital during a fire.
“It’s so hard – I talk to my boss and I generally ask him to be home for at least three weeks, and then my husband will take over the next three weeks,” she said. “I think we’re trying to fix it that way. But I don’t know if Kids will release it in three weeks.”
Emergency medical staff are not the only ones affected by the closure of schools and pre-schools. Larry Cronin, chief operating officer of Elder Achievers, with a profit of nearly 100 full-time and part-time home care workers, said several of his workers are no longer available because they do not care for the children.
“I have other women who pay babysitters to work,” Cronin said. “But this is also an injustice that works so hard and has to give up half its salary to get childcare just to be able to go to work.”
And Cronin said he didn’t know how long those helpers could continue to pay babysitters.
Parents who need to work – but are not considered first-line – can contact regional childcare centers to check for slots, the state says.