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Needed More Than Ever

Childcare Center Faces New Reality Following Pandemic

Children playing at Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center in Mayville. The childcare center is considered an essential business and is still open during the coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak. Submitted photos

Childcare centers have been deemed an essential service during the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak and are needed now more than ever, according to Beth Starks, Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center executive director.

Starks said there was a shortage of childcare centers before the virus and the lack of daycare facilities is now even more prevalent.

“Now during this situation, there is even more of an extreme need,” Starks said.

Initially following the outbreak, Starks said the childcare center’s enrollment went from full capacity, with a waiting list, to about a quarter enrollment. However, a new need for childcare was created following the outbreak because some parents are working longer hours. For some parents, the ability to leave their children with grandparents while they go to work is no longer an option.

“Families started to know we were here and approached us for their needs, and we started to enroll new families,” Starks said. “Before, maybe some didn’t have a need for childcare because there children were in school or grandparents were watching them, but that is not the situation any longer.”

Children and a childcare provider at Chautauqua Lake Child Car Center in Mayville. There is funding assistance available for parents who find themselves in need of childcare services during the pandemic.

Starks said she is working closely with school district and county officials to assist those in need of childcare services who need funding assistance. She said the state Office of Children and Family Services has provided a wavier to counties for financial assistance to families during the pandemic.

She added that county Health and Human Services officials applied for the wavier and were approved to receive the funding.

“It’s funding from the federal government that flows through New York state to counties to assist families with childcare providers during this time,” she said. “I’ve been proud of our county officials who have applied for every wavier to help as many families as they can.”

Even with the funding support and new enrollments, Starks said the Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, which is located at the former Mayville School Building, is only at half capacity. She said the nonprofit organization has had to reduce hours for its part-time staff.

“We are making decisions about staffing on an ongoing basis,” she said.

Starks said additional new concerns for the childcare center since the coronavirus outbreak happened is protocol for the children. She said changes since the virus includes children being placed together in smaller group sizes and the amount of cleaning being done has increased at the facility.

“We’re trying to put in as many new practices as we can like smaller group sizes, but with infants you can’t stay six feet away,” she said. “We are putting new practices in place, but the main mission is still the same. Make sure the kids feel love and secure.”

Starks said every morning children and staff are having their temperature read at the door. She said if a child has a fever, they are sent home for at least 72 hours. The old protocol was 24 hours.

“We’re still providing the education and care that we can. We’re making sure they are laughing and playing and having fun,” she said. “As a philosophy, they learn while they play, so they are learning all the time.”

Starks said people can contact the Child Care Council for any needs at 1-800-424-4532. She said there is financial assistance available to those in need of childcare. She said that people who want to make donations to the center or a family in need can call the center at 753-5851.

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