LIMA — Child-care providers and working parents are under increasing pressure as more students are learning remotely and the costs of coronavirus safety measures mount.
First there were the daycare ratios, implemented last spring to limit the number of children and adults allowed inside a child-care facility to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a time when little was known about coronavirus spread among children.
Many day cares in turn prioritized their limited slots to children whose parents worked full-time, forcing some part-time workers who couldn’t find a place for their children to stay home, according to Rachel Reeder, a supervisor for Allen County Department of Job and Family Services who works with subsidized child-care providers so that low-income parents can afford to work.
There were the new disinfection protocols, another expense for child-care providers that were now expected to check temperatures and provide portable hand-washing stations at the door.
And then there was the increased demand for child care as schools transitioned to hybrid or virtual-only learning models, a challenge for working parents whose children are too young to stay home alone.
The problems created by the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated challenges the Allen County Department of Job and Family Services was already facing when recruiting in-home child-care providers and day-care centers to participate the agency’s subsidized child-care program, which saw many providers leave in 2019 after Ohio’s Step Up to Quality rating system took effect.
The agency offers child-care vouchers to low-income working parents because child care and transportation are two of the most common barriers to the workplace.
But the new educational standards created by Step Up to Quality were too expensive for some da-ycare providers, Reeder said, meaning the families that relied on state child-care vouchers had fewer options for their kids.
“Parents just need a safe place to put their kids, so they know they’re OK while they’re at work,” said Joseph Patton, executive director of Ohio Means Jobs-Allen County and the Allen County Department of Job and Family Services.
Patton and Reeder spoke with the Lima Rotary Club on Monday about the affect the pandemic and Step Up to Quality have had on child care in Allen County.
“You’re actually getting less children into the (child-care) system with the additional cost of Step up to Quality,” Patton said.
The agency has increased its outreach to child-care providers to encourage more participation in the subsidized program and continue offering services throughout the pandemic, sending COVID-19 care packages, offering vouchers to pay for registration fees or training costs and collaborating with agencies like the YWCA.