Finding Childcare during COVID Times

What am I going to do with my kids this Fall?  How will I juggle work and childcare?   If you are a parent, especially a parent of a young child, these sentences are most likely looming in your heads right now.   According to the Child Development Council, there are few vacancies in our local childcare settings at the moment.  Meaning, few vacancies in registered childcare settings; like registered family daycare and group daycare settings.  This doesn’t mean that openings aren’t available in non-registered places.  Registration assures that certain quality standards are met by the program ( e.g., background checks, child-teacher ratios, providers meeting certain education and credentialing requirements, site inspection).   This doesn’t mean that all non-registered settings are of low quality - they can certainly be high quality places too.  But if you are sending your child to a registered daycare setting, you can be assured that these minimal standards have been met. The Child Development Council which serves Cortland and Tompkins County has some great resources for how to go about selecting a good fit childcare setting. Below is a link their guide: 

You may qualify for child care subsidy if your income is below a certain level. This means the government will pay for most of your childcare costs. Below is a spreadsheet outlining the eligibility criteria. 

Given the lack of options we thought we would mention a couple of ideas you may not already know about:  

The first one is if you have ever thought about becoming a childcare provider, now is a great time. Childcare providers are needed, as you can see, especially with the few open spots available through the existing registered programs.  So if you love working with children, this would definitely be something for you to consider. You would be needed!  Below are some steps to take if this is something you are considering:  

The second thought is: If you are struggling financially right now (and let's face it, many of us are) you may qualify for childcare funding. This would be through registering your Informal Child Care Provider with the Childcare Council. So right now many of us are relying on informal care providers; family, friends, grandparents who are helping us with childcare. If you meet certain income requirements, then you can qualify to have your informal childcare provider, paid for. Details on the requirements for this program are below. Providers may also qualify for the Child and Adult Care Food Program which would pay up to $92/month per child.

What to look for in a Childcare Program:

And finally, when searching for a program, here is a brief mention of some things to look for that can suggest the program is of quality:

Small Teacher/Provider to Child Ratios:  A big quality indicator: We want these ratios to be small to assure that children are not only attended to but that their interactions with their caregivers are consistent, and of high quality.  There should be a lot of conversation and discussion happening throughout the day between the caregivers and the children, and the adults can be more attuned to children’s needs when there is a low caregiver to child ratio.

Teacher/Staff Credentials:  Do the staff have a background or training in child development, or are they seeking out continuing education?  What is their knowledge base in child development? 

Family Involvement:  To what degree does the childcare setting welcome families, involve them, invite them to events, and communicate regularly?  As families, we should feel welcome and included in every way, and never feel unwanted or excluded. There should be open communication between parties.  

How many years of Teaching:  For center based care, how many years have teachers been there?   Ideally, it's great for lead teachers to have a lot of experience, and tenure is a good indicator. 

And perhaps of great importance here, is the feeling you have when you walk in the door.   What does it feel like to be in this space? Can you envision your child fitting in and spending their days here?  Are there plenty of stimulating and engaging materials?  How are the rooms set up? Are they designed to facilitate play and social emotional development?  Are the teachers warm and expressive?  Does your child feel comfortable?  Are they going to be spending time in front of the screens?  There is something to be said about parent intuition, and this is definitely of critical importance when choosing an early childcare setting. 

Links you may find useful: