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Child Care During the COVID-19 pandemic

Oct 4, 2020

As the entire world is currently grappling with the challenges of Covid-19, child care is among the hardest-hit which is a genuine cause of concern for the parents.  Parents have long struggled to find and afford child care that meets their requirements. Now the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing child care crisis and at the same time raised significant new challenges also. According to the data, pre-pandemic about half of the families reported having problems to find out child care for their child. The figure has now increased to nearly two- thirds during this pandemic because of the restriction to control this virus from spreading.  This regulation causes daycares, caregivers and nannies nonoperational. Some of the schools are functional remotely via a virtual classroom, many more parents including with a kid having at the elementary stage of school are grappling with child care crisis. A new research suggests that around 1 in 5 of working parents are not working because of this child care crux. This child care concern is no longer a matter of logistics (who will take care of my kid when I am not at home) or finances (affordability to engage a nanny). This pandemic of Covid-19 has put those queries even more complicated as well as anxiety-provoking.

Here we are describing some of the inventive ways regarding child care that parents can explore during this pandemic to mitigate the child care crisis.

Child care collective

A collective can be as simple as people (someone you trust) inviting kids to their home or at the park for the few hours a day. This is very effective for a collective of neighbours exchanging days so that parents can get free time to finish their work uninterruptedly. It is also a good idea to appoint someone in the office team who can take care of another’s kid at the office. Child care collective can be considered as a “Round-robin mechanism” which will allow parents to “get some time off” while someone else from the network is taking care of the kids for the day. More precisely this collective network is based on the policy of “giving” and “receiving”. Every hour which you will give, you will receive in return which is called as time-bank. All hours are equally valued. As an example, one hour of teaching or project support is equivalent to one hour of outdoor activity or one hour of other types of care required for the children. Everyone participating in this collective network should encourage discussing the safety protocol and recommendations that need to be followed. An open communication should be practiced if anyone among the network (child as well as someone in the child’s pod) experiences Covid-19 symptoms or has recently had any risky contacts. 

Some of the child care tips and Covid-19 information have been listed below which can be helpful while practicing the child care collective.

COVID-19 Safety Information:

  • Always wear masks. Maintain proper hand hygiene either using soap or alcohol-based sanitizers. 
  • Engage in remote activities as much as possible. When not possible, outdoor, socially distanced activities should be entertained. Enforce temperature checks for in-person childcare.
  • Talk through with other parents in your network what safety protocols everyone is following. 

Basic Safety:

  • Look for knives and glass, hard/sharp edges, slippery surfaces, small objects that can be easily swallowed (or things kids easily choke on, including latex balloons), things that can be easily spilled/damaged.
  • Tape over outlets or cover with furniture. 
  • Restrict access to radiators, which can burn children. 
  • No open flames, not hot beverages (burn risk).

Other associated factors regarding child care:

  • Respect kids’ consent. Ask before you hug, pick up or otherwise touch a kid. 
  • Ask questions about their preferences, especially about their health (ex: Would you like to go to the bathroom? Are you feeling tired?) 
  • Do not normalize one kid touching another kid when they don’t want to be touched. 

Parents are agreed with the fact that this collective network concept can be very much effective for them if implemented properly. At the advent of this pandemic, mutual aid networks arose to fulfil the requirements of medicines, groceries and other essential commodities. Similarly, childcare collectives have to arise to fulfil the necessity of the child care crisis during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Co-quarantining and pandemic pod

 Co-quarantining is a less formal alternative compared to child care collective in which a few numbers of the families ( three or four ) conjoin together to care for another’s kid exclusively. This trend can also be referred as “pandemic pod”, a newly coined terminology during this pandemic. This “pandemic pod” is nothing but a collective in which a small group of families comes to gather on a mutually agreed term to provide the child care dividing all the responsibilities that are associated with the same. Generally, each family takes the responsibility of the pod for a day and it is their purview to educate them and socializing for that particular day. Providing education to a small group once a week is very much viable for the working parents also. In “pandemic pod” all the students learn together while their schools are closed. Parent driven self organized schooling methodology is nothing new. “Pandemic pod” shares a lot of common attributes with other schooling models such as home-schooling, micro-schooling and freedom schooling where parents proactively opt out the traditional schooling system and take direct control over their children’s education. The pandemic pods are popping up because of the school closure caused by this Covid-19 pandemic. Two or more groups of families via pandemic pod can support their student’s education using curriculum and instructions given by their school to fully independent micro-schools that appoint freelance teachers and create curricula. Currently, most of the parents are interested to form a pod hoping to find out families with the same mental frequency (alike-minded) and good free agent instructors. Social media platforms are playing a very important role in this match-making.  The potential aspect of this pandemic pod is that kids will get to socialize along with their responsibilities will be shared. 

A family from California shares their story of how she sets up a co-quarantining with the parents of her daughter’s friends. “At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the families had a teenage relative who came here and took care of all the kids for more than two weeks. When she returned to her own place, from that point of time till now we basically rotated houses. All the kids would stay at one place every day, so the working parents can have at least some good time to get their work done.”

 If someone among this co-quarantine member or pod feels sick or having any such Covid-19 symptoms, this family should wait until a Covid-19 test result comes negative. Strict adherence to the Covid-19 precautions and measurements can ensure the safety of the family.   

Nanny Share

Covid-19 pandemic has compelled parents to find out the workaround for everything from child care to schooling within an affordable cost limit.  One such popular solution is “Nanny Share”. Nanny share is exactly same as what it means verbatim like: two or more families based on a covenant share the Nanny’s services. Splitting the nanny’s service was already functional particularly where the daycare services are very hard to come by. During this Covid-19 pandemic “nanny share” has come up as a feasible option to the parents because most of the daycare services are closed or running with reduced operational mode. If you are interested or looking for shared care arrangements – here is what a “nanny share” is all about.

How does it work?

The “nanny share” arrangement starts with finding suitable families with whom service to be shared and a proper nanny who will provide the service. After finding both compatible family/families (one or two) and a well-trained nanny – you can go ahead with this option. Many child care websites provide Nanny Service where you will be connected directly with both the parties nannies and other families looking for the same service. Social media parenting communities can also be helpful in order to search for Nannies or parents willing to share nanny service. 

What are the benefits of “Nanny Share “?

“Nanny Share” service is a simple business agreement where the nanny will be paid for providing the service by the families who are agreed to appoint the caregiver. This arrangement offers benefits for both the parties involved in the system. Typically caregivers are likely to be paid more in case of share services because they are servicing for more than one family. On the other hand, each family pays a bit less than compared to individual care making a win-win factor for all the entities associated with this procedure.

What are the logistics of a Nanny share? 

 If you are considering a Nanny share, there are several day to day logistics that need to be considered with the other family/families involved and the caregiver. Here are a few points to consider.

  • Who will host? And how often?
  • Who will provide meals and snacks? 
  • What outdoor activities to be performed with the nanny? 
  • What precautions and protocols to be adhered to during this Covid-19 pandemic? 
  • How to get daily updates? 
  • What if your kid or Nanny gets sick during the day?
  • Notice period, the other family/families, or nanny need to provide for ending the arrangement?

All the factors mentioned above are a sample set of considerations. It is always advised to make a proper agreement and routine that makes sense in this regard. 

It is suggested that “Nanny Share” should pair up with families who maintain proper safety measure during this COVID-19 pandemic and follow to some extent the same parenting procedures, dispensary protocols and keep the value of commitment. 

A nanny share is worth considering as a child care service amid of COVID-19. As long as you are satisfied with the chosen nanny and the family/families with whom service to be shared — and have properly addressed the necessary logistics — it is a comparatively cost-effective solution that not only frees parents up but also offers kids some much needed social interaction.

Educator- Nanny Hybrid:

When parents are busy operating for the office in WFH (work from home) mode, helping kids, attending their school via a virtual classroom, is very much challenging or next to impossible practically. With the pandemic lingering on, many parents are struggling to balance their work, child care as well as education. To ease the situation Nannies or tutors are hired.

Typically, the objective to hire a nanny is to provide the child care required for the kids because either the parents are busy working from home or have to work remotely. The challenge of managing the work assignments during the day while taking care of your kids is basically difficult. It will be tough enough for parents to perpetuate office activities from home while supporting the kids who require formal education. In this current situation of pandemic parents are interested opting a full-time nanny who can double as a tutor (tutor-nanny hybrid). In this hybrid concept, the operation of the nanny is morphed as a combo of both tutor and caregiver depending on the age of the kids. A teaching nanny can oversee and support the kid’s learning via online, keep track of their assignments or projects and communicate with the school based on the requirements. In other words, adopting this hybrid concept for Nannies, parents can provide a stable routine and consistency for their children. According to the data collected from the consultancies providing Nanny Service, in addition to the traditional Nanny Service requests, they are receiving an overwhelming amount of inquiries from the parents about qualified Nannies who can supervise virtual learning for their children. The recent surge in parents interested to hire educationally-focused nannies because it can manage (to some extent) the predicament and serve as some relief especially for working parents via playing the dual role of teacher and caregiver.

Small, Outdoor Group Child Care

Amid of this Covid-19 pandemic, parents are interested to balance their kid’s safety with their need to have enriching and fun breaks. That is the reason they are looking for an outdoor-based child care pod or child care program. There are lots of consultancies that are supporting parents to find out outdoor activity focused pods. One of the founder members of a renowned outdoor focused pod explains “how they are operating this outdoor focused pod maintain social distancing and the benefits of being outside.”

Exploring the outdoors while social distancing

  • Nature all around us:  Exploring the outside world with proper social distancing can happen in your yard, a table-top garden.
  • Take story time outside: Take a blanket, some storybooks and find a suitable spot to read with your child outdoors. Pick books that talk about nature and help your child to establish the interaction.
  • Hunt or start a nature collection:  Hunt for plants, trees, rocks, acorns, leaves, or pinecones. Check how many items children can find on a list, or gather objects to add to a collection.
  • Have a ball: Kicking a ball or playing catch-catch together can be fine if you are apart from each other.
  • Secret spy mission game: Organize a “secret spy mission” game plan with other children’s parents. One family will go on a walk with chalk, drawing arrows and letters along the way to spell out a secret message. The other family will follow the arrows along the way to record the letters in the message.
  • Bicycling with baby: Maintaining social distancing from others you can have a child bicycle trailer and get some exercise while enjoying the outdoors with your baby. 
  • Bringing the baby out:  Even an infant can play and learn in nature. If you are in public areas like a park, it may be safest to keep them in a carrier. If they are in your own private space, it’s fine to have them explore even more.
  • The benefits of being outside: It is known to all that outdoor activities can help to develop the mental and physical health and minimize stress level; improvise moods and offers creative exploration and learning.
  • Physically healthier: Outdoor activity time is linked with improved motor development and lower obesity rates. During this pandemic time also children need to have the option to get involved in outdoor activities.
  • More engaged in learning: Playing outside promotes more curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking which benefits a child to improve learning outcomes.  
  • More positive in behavior: Children, spending time in outdoor activities, improve their impulse control causing to have less anger and aggression. 
  • Mentally healthier: Stress and depression are lower for all children who spend time in nature.

Currently, most of the consultancies are offering co-op pods led by parents and facilitated pods led by vetted care-providers.

How Can Parents Diminish Risk From Group Child Care?

If you are from the families who are compelled to rely on the child care even in the time of Covid-19 pandemic- here are some common-sense hygiene tips that can help to minimize the risk of transmission and keep members of your family a little safer from contracting the coronavirus.

  • Washing hands:

Washing hands is the most effective way by which the virus exposure can be minimized the most. Maintaining proper hand hygiene using soap (20 seconds at least) or Alcohol (70% or above) based sanitizer as often as you can is the frontline of defensive against Covid-19. 

  • Changing clothes at the end of the day:

Make the practice of changing the clothes of your kids as soon as you get home if you have not started it yet. Clothes should be laundered as quickly as possible because those daycare germs can start making the round through your home. 

Bathe every day after pickup:

Washing hands is great but it is known to all that kids are not at the best about maintaining cough etiquette covering sneezes and coughs which can cause those airborne particles to go anywhere. Bathing your child (including yourself) with soap and shampoo from head to toe as soon as you get home can help to diminish the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Remove the shoes outside:

Remove the shoes and leave them at your doorstep. The bottom of the shoes is prone to spread Coronavirus while coming in contact with the surface of your home.

Tips for affording child care or handling child care crisis during this Covid-19 pandemic: 

We all want to leave our kinds in capable hands when we need to go out for work but finding a suitable fit and affording the same is not so easy. The cost of child care has increased twice as fast as the median income of families. Certainly, the pressures are even greater on single-parent families and the situation is harder still for low-income households. Here are some measures that are effective to lessen child care financial stress during this situation. 

  • Plan out a budget that works for your family calculating child care costs.
  • Choose a daycare center with special discounts, sliding fee scales (pay rate is based on income), or payment plans.
  • Consider more cost-effective child options, such as Nanny sharing or virtual babysitting.
  • Check whether your employer has any child care assistance programs. Some employers may also be flexible with hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Opting the option of dependent Care Accounts that are sometimes offered through employers. You may be eligible if you have children under age 13 and you’re working full-time (or getting an education). 
  • If Mom or Dad attends a university, check if it has the facility of child care on campus.

 

During this Covid-19 pandemic, parents are continuously facing new challenges one after another. Families and caregivers are trying to make the best of the situation being much more flexible. It has to be kept in mind that no solution is going to be a hundred percent foolproof but it needs to be the best what we can make it for right now.

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