As you are undoubtedly aware, COVID-19 presented us all with tremendous obstacles back in March and through the spring. I’d like to tell you a bit about how we weathered the storm and hopefully rose to the challenge.
In mid-March, we were collectively reeling with the fact that the pandemic had reached us and was significantly affecting our day to day lives. The number of children attending our programs dropped daily as parents chose to work from home and schools closed. All childcare programs in BC had been asked to remain open to provide care ‘if we could do so safely.’
Our biggest challenge was figuring out what “safely” meant, exactly. In those first weeks, we had very little direction from either licensing (through Island Health), The Ministry of Children and Family Development, or the Ministry of Health. We kept hearing: “please stay open to provide care for children of essential service workers if you can do so safely.” When it became clear that there were no clear answers coming, we knew that we would have to develop our own protocols and decide who was considered essential service.
When we did begin to get direction via teleconferences, we discovered that all our own protocols exceeded the standards that were being laid out for us. Licensing did a virtual inspection of our facility to approve our Covid-19 protocols, which we passed. In May, Paula began to get phone calls from other child care centres asking for advice/guidance on how to re-open safely because our Licensing officer had recommended her as someone who did it well.
We were able to help a number of essential service families, most of whom have stayed with us. Almost every afternoon, we had a parent thanking us for staying open and willing to take them on as new families. In particular, one mom who came through our Transition House and Dovetail Program had recently gotten a job in a legal office, and through tears, she told us that she would have been laid off if she didn’t have stable daycare.
It was definitely a challenge to stay open, and it took a great deal of time and effort from our staff team.
But the gratitude from the parents reinforced why we do what we do: providing excellence in support, housing, education and community, we work together to restore hope and a future to those overcoming the challenges before them.
By Paula Westpatrick, Manager of The Cridge Childcare Services