Every morning they get up and mentally prepare, they get dressed and pack their bag for the day. Going through the checklist of what they need. Lunch, water bottle, change of clothes, masks, and any curriculum items they need for their classroom.
Then they head to work and start their day. They are the invisible and the often forgotten, the child care providers of the community.
As the debates rage on about how to safely open schools and the fear from the school-age population, the forgotten child development community quietly screams “we have been doing it all along!”
As they greet parents and get close to them to take temperatures and ask if anyone has been sick, they quietly wonder “why are we here”, then they see the smiles and excitement the littlest population has for the day. They remember why.
As they take that baby from her father’s arms they wonder “am I safe?” Then they see the relief in the dad’s eyes as he trusts his baby is in safe arms. They remember why they are there.
Each day my staff of child development professionals provide a safe environment for the youngest population, but more than that, they provide an education and a sense of security and well-being in an uncertain world.
Child Development classrooms are still full of art, music, math, science, circle time, and all the activities that come to mind when we think of child development. Now they have added steps in between. Fixing masks, because yes, our children aged 3 and older wear a mask. They sanitize every surface of the room several times throughout the day, they wash little hands, and then wash them again because they played with their mask. They clean the bathroom after each use, all with the children next to them.
In those early days I asked myself over and over “why am I here?” I read and heard of those working from home, baking bread, gardening, and the like. I also heard the struggles of working parents who tried to balance their workload and their children and knew we are essential and we need to be open for families.
Plans were made based on unclear and ever-changing regulations. Best practices were always with the caveat “to the best of your ability” or “when reasonable”, so we wrote and re-wrote the plans. Over Zoom meetings the local child development community met weekly to discuss and dissect the information and to support each other in the development of plans to keep ourselves, our staff, and our community safe, and it works!
We hear that K-12 schools and the child care they provide are essential to the economy, but no one talks about the child development community. The ones who have been doing it all along. We stand along-side K-12 educators in your fear and concern, but we are currently in our centers and our school and provided these services.
We have limited resources, limited support from state and federal agencies. We have had to source our own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies. Our lives matter as well. We are scared, stressed, and feel alone. The voices of the child development community are usually quiet, but we must be heard.
With all that said, it is worth the effort and risk to see the happy, playing kids learning and growing.