Editor’s note: This is an emerging story. We are updating it as we learn of new options or changes to existing emergency child care programs.
As a line of defense in the state’s after-school child care resources, the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence has been fielding “a steady stream” of calls and emails from families since Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman announced statewide school closures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“The mood is of frustrated desperation,” said Courtney Sullivan, the center’s executive director. “This situation is so new to all of us. You get a definite sense from people of ‘I need a child care solution, and I need it quickly, but I’m not sure where to go for it.’ ”
Sullivan’s organization is a go-to source for working families who require affordable child care to continue their jobs. The Center has compiled a running list of child care programs that are accepting new families who have been impacted by the statewide school shutdown. The largest accommodations are coming from community organizations.
Availability pales in comparison to the sudden surge in need, Sullivan said. The situation is compounded by the rush of child care and after-school activity programs that have closed due to coronavirus fears.
Organizations that have stepped up
- The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley, which typically focus on after-school programming are making school-day care programs available at more than 20 sites. Clubs will provide two meals for the day and a snack. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Scottsdale has closed its programs through April 1.
- Valley of the Sun YMCA has consolidated its emergency childcare program to nine locations statewide through April 3. Open sites in the metro-Phoenix area include Chandler/Gilbert, Chris-Town, Glendale/Peoria, Scottsdale/Paradise Valley, Southwest Valley, Northwest Valley and Tempe. Selected branches will include snacks and lunch. Online registration is not available for this program. Visit your branch or call 602-404-9622.
- Tutor Time Child Care and Learning Centers remain open Valleywide as staff continue to monitor the situation. Here is information about safety measures all Learning Care Group schools have implemented and a list of frequently asked questions.
- Children’s Learning Adventure Daycare Centers in Laveen, Maricopa and Scottsdale waiving registration fees for impacted families.
- Kindercare Learning Center locations are open, according to District Manager Michael Aleman-Muren.
- Springs Preschool in Chandler has openings for school-age kids.
- The Goddard School Warner (720 E. Warner Rd. in Gilbert) is open and has capacity to take additional students.
- Play & Learn Child Care has notified us that it remains open for the children of essential employees. Includes two full meals. 4859 E. Greenway Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85254. Call 602-788-0191 for more information.
- Chandler-based Life Christian Preschool and Childcare is available to families with infants through grade 5. Includes two meals and a snack, and a morning academic program with experienced teachers.
- Online services such as sittercity.com or care.com matching caregivers with families.
The Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence has a running list of programs to help local families. Here are some additional programs we have learned about. Please write to us if you know of others so we can help share the news.
Backlash and judgment
Some childcare providers that have chosen to remain open are drawing criticism amid concerns of spread of the coronavirus through schools and other populations. Sullivan cautioned against the “angry backlash” that she sees emerging against those programs.
“We are very fortunate that the programs are opening their doors to anyone who needs them,” Sullivan said. “Try not to judge too harshly. While it may seem to be counterintuitive to the recommendations of self-isolating and social distancing, we need to make sure we have child care to keep our community functioning — such as for health care workers, first responders and even grocery store staff who need these programs.”
Open sites face shortages in supplies
The child care programs that are open are facing new hurdles. One of the biggest is the shortage of hand sanitizer and cleaning and paper products that are in scarce supply for the general public. Programs are requiring more of those products than usual to meet elevated sanitation, cleaning and safety requirements. The state is advising child care programs that are shutting down for any period to send their cleaning supplies to open programs.
During the trying times brought by the coronavirus outbreak, Sullivan sums up her list of recommendations by urging parents and other community members to:
- Save child care slots for those who truly need them. Parents who are able to work from home with their children should not try to place them in any available child care programs.
- Be understanding to those families who require outside child care and to providers of the programs.
- Keep your child home if the child or anyone in your family is sick. Any illness will put the entire program at risk of being closed.
- Don’t rely on grandparents – or anyone in an identified high-risk group – to take care of the children.