By Mac Cordell and Kayleen Petrovia
In the midst of school closures, parents and childcare providers are taking things one step at a time.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had yet not issued an order to close daycare facilities as of press time Thursday morning, but indicated it is likely to happen.
“I’m pleading with parents: If you have children in daycare and can keep them home, please do it,” he wrote in a March 15 statement. “To close daycares overnight won’t work, but it’s coming.”
Abby Goldsberry, a single mother, said she is doing her best to cooperate with DeWine’s guidance.
Goldsberry said her daughter, Jada, goes to daycare several days a week while she works in manufacturing at Scotts Miracle-Gro.
She said she believes her employer will be flexible in allowing her to stay home to watch Jada, if necessary.
But, she said she’s unsure if her time off would be paid or unpaid.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty that makes me worried,” Goldsberry said.
The worry is not just for parents.
“It’s very stressful right now because we don’t know when or if we are going to be shut down,” said Lauren Brown, director at World of Wonders Day Care.
She said at this point, staff and families are treating it as a “when” not an “if.”
Brown said many families are already following the governor’s directive to keep children home if possible. She said the center has only about 40% of its usual participants.
Jill McKellop, director at Memorial Kidzlink, said many families there have also opted to keep their children home. She said many of the parents at her facility are part of the medical community and are not able to simply stay home.
“We have had discussions and for those remaining families, I believe all of them would be able to find a family member or neighbor or a friend who would be able to watch those children in the event we do close,” McKellop said
Not all families have that option, Goldsberry said.
She explained that she relies on daycare services because her mother recently passed away and her father has health issues that prevent him from helping to care for Jada.
If daycares are required to close, she said she would likely have to choose between going to work – and being able to pay her bills – or staying home to care for her daughter.
“I need a job to provide a roof over her head and food for her, but her health is important, too,” Goldsberry said.
Goldsberry said plenty of her coworkers are in situations similar to hers.
Workers at childcare centers are also concerned about their jobs.
“We have a lot of single moms who work here and who go here,” Brown said. “We are looking at what we can do, social service-wise, to help them.”
Brown said that as families face the loss of their daycare center, she hopes the out-of-work providers will be an option.
“We will hopefully be able to help our staff and our families by having our parents use trained, background-checked caregivers through our staff,” Brown said.
Her fear, she said, is that while the governor’s order will close licensed daycare centers, unlicensed providers will not close and will actually increase their number of children as parents have less options. She encouraged parents to do their homework before selecting a daycare provider.
Goldsberry said many parents who may be facing financial hardships relate to her situation. While unfortunate, she said she hopes this connection spurs people to support one another.
“I’m hoping the community will be able to come together during this,” she said.
McKellop agrees. She said she is telling staff and parents not to let fear dictate their actions.
“You don’t want to panic, but you want to take it seriously,” she said. “I tell people to do their best and take it day by day.”
Brown said small daycares and nonprofits will be hit the hardest. She said she hopes the shutdown is short.
“None of us in this industry make enough money to sustain a long term shut down,” Brown said. She added, “Our goal is to be able to open when they need us.”
While circumstances are uncertain, Goldsberry said she knows her daughter is her first priority. She said she can’t control how things unfold, but is doing what she can to care for Jada each day.
“I’m trying not to worry about it and just take it day by day,” Goldsberry said. “Only time will tell.”
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