Parents around the world are facing tough decisions when it comes to the reopening of child care centers, daycares, and schools. There’s no question that the shutdown of child care facilities placed many families in difficult positions. Whether you were working from home or considered an essential worker, without child care support it’s incredibly tough to maintain daily routines. Needless to say, there are many parents who are desperate to utilize child care services once again. However, it’s important to be aware of what these re-openings look like, and how it might affect your family.
The CDC Guidelines for Child Care Programs
In the U.S., the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for child care programs are thorough and specific. But it’s important to remember that specific re-opening protocols will depend on where you live, your local leadership, and the individual practices of your child care facility.
If you live outside of the U.S., recommendations may look different, but this is what the CDC has advised if childcare centers plan to reopen:
Social Distancing Plans: Children should be assigned to smaller groups (less than 10) and stay within that group, with the same child care provider/teacher, each day. This can prevent too many children and staff members from mixing together and spreading the virus if someone tests positive. At nap time, mats and cribs should be spaced 6-ft apart. Celebrations, such as birthday parties or holiday events, should be postponed.
Keeping the Facility Clean: Child care centers should keep a cleaning and disinfecting schedule (here’s an example) to ensure that all areas are routinely wiped down. All surfaces and objects (especially those that are frequently touched, like doorknobs, keyboards, toys, and games) should be cleaned by using effective EPA-registered disinfectants. Toys that can’t be regularly cleaned with sprays or wipes, such as cloth or plush stuffed animals, should be temporarily removed from the facility.
Pick-Up and Drop-Off Procedures: Staggering pick-up and drop-off times can help prevent excessive contact with multiple people. At drop-off, there should be a hand-washing station located at the entrance so children can wash their hands before entering. If a child care center is using hand sanitizer at these stations, it must contain at least 60% alcohol and be out of children’s reach. Caregivers that are considered high-risk due to age or preexisting health conditions shouldn’t be responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Screen Children Upon Arrival: Facilities should conduct temperature checks for children and staff before they enter the building. Children or staff members who have a fever of 100.4 degrees or more should not be allowed inside. Parents, caregivers, and staff should also be aware of other signs of illness, such as coughing, wheezing, runny nose, or headaches. Any children or staff members that show signs of illness, even if they don’t have a fever, should be sent home.
Face Covering Policies: Administrators, staff members, parents, and older children should always wear a face mask. However, children under the age of 2 should not wear them due to the risk of suffocation.
Should You Send Your Child Back to a Child Care Program?
Even if your child care center is strictly following local guidelines, should you send your child back? This is a burning question that depends on a lot of different factors. Do you and your partner work from home? Are you an essential worker? Are you living with grandparents or high-risk relatives? If your child does get sick, do you have the ability to care for them at home and commit to a 14-day quarantine? How has is your community reacted to the spread of the virus? Unfortunately, there’s no clear or easy answer. Families have to make this decision depending on their individual circumstances. Hopefully, when all of these factors are taken into consideration, families can take the child care path that’s right for them.
Remember that you can also speak with your health care providers, other parents in your area, and the directors of your child care program to find out more information. In order to make a well-informed decision, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with others in your community.