The Governor recently issued a directive stating (on page 2, #1) “All persons may leave their homes or place of residence only for Essential Activities or to operate Essential Businesses and Operations, all as defined below.” Child care is part of human services exempt from the stay at home directive (page 4, #7).
There are many factors to consider when making program choices during this time of pandemic. We understand feelings of uncertainty and want you to know that whether you remain open or choose to close; we at Family Connections are here in full support of any choices you make on behalf of the safety and well-being of you, your child care program, staff, children, and families. Please see the Child Care Closure flow chart to help guide you in your decision making.
Based on national and state recommendations from government, health organizations, and the early childhood sector, Family Connections encourages child care programs to remain open in order to provide continued service to essential and emergency personnel.
See the Guidance from the Association of Montana Public Health Officials. Here are some measures to implement when caring for children from essential sector families.
- Drop Off and Pick Up: Create a curbside system that limits direct contact and follows social distancing guidelines. Perform a daily health check prior to entering the building including a temperature check of all children and staff. Have one person document the sign in (using one pen or a different pen per user) or have one person enter in time clock codes. Wash hands upon arrival. Have families pack a large back pack of supplies that can remain on site limiting materials going back and forth. Identity should be confirmed for essential service personnel.
- Meals and Snacks: Limit congregation, eat in classrooms. No family style meal service. Plate service, or cold lunch provided by family, or single serve packaged foods should be considered. Use of disposable utensils if on hand can be considered. Wash hands before and after meals. Sanitize surfaces prior and following use.
- Staffing: No staff 60 and over and any staff who are auto immune should be on stay at home order. A recommended ratio is 2 caregivers for every 8 children in separated rooms. Limit program to 1 roving staff (program director, lead type teacher), and if necessary for larger programs – 1 floater position to support cleaning, and successful distancing tasks as needed.
- Classroom Practices: do not share materials between classrooms. Remain in classroom space as much as possible. Opt for walks for outdoor experiences over parks and playground equipment, apply social distancing in gym situations, set timers for regular hand washing, take temperatures during mid-day daily health check, clean and sanitize minimum 3x a day, double check your emergency bags and charts and procedures and review needs of any children with allergies or special needs, maintain a consistent routine but adding flexibility and ease to the day-to-day. Focus on positive relationship building, trust and safety. And feel free to offer a bit more TV or access to appropriate movies than you might normally.
Best Beginnings Scholarship Updates:
- To support families on the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship and child care providers providing services to these families, the scholarship will pay the entire authorized amount for each child who is attending a child care program, or has been absent from the provider since 3/12/2020. Please note that the scholarship can only pay one provider. If a child began attending a new provider on or after 3/12/2020, only the current provider where the children are attending will be paid for child care.
- Invoice Instructions
- For child For child care providers that have remained opened, please do the following:
- On either the online or paper invoice, a comment must be added to each day the child would normally be in attendance but is absent. (note that many of the eligibility staff are teleworking and using the online invoicing platform which may enhance service).
- In the Hours Requested, Put “O.”
- In the Comments, write “Open, Absent, COVID-19.”
- For child For child care providers that have closed for an extended period and are not currently caring for children, please do the following:
- On either the online or paper invoice, please add a comment, “Closed, COVID-19” on the day the child care facility closed. Please note, that at this time no reimbursements will be made for programs not offering services. Additional information will be released soon for providers that have chosen to close.
- There will be additional information released that will describe other supports for providers and families. For now, this information is for the month of March services, authorization, invoicing, and payment for Best Beginnings Scholarship.
Please also see the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Family Connections and child care providers who are willing to provide care for essential and emergency personnel as part of our Guardian Program which may be activated during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Our office is closed to the public but our staff is still working on paperwork, processing applications, doing referrals, paying invoices, etc. Please contact us with any questions or concerns. The best way to contact us is by emailing our Provider Services staff or email us at fcinfo@FamilyConnectionsMT.org .
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