What to know if you have/need child care in Portland during coronavirus

What to know if you have/need child care in Portland during coronavirus

UPDATED 3/22: If you’re like me, ever since you heard that Governor Brown cancelled K-12 schools til April 28th, you’ve been in a bit of panic trying to figure out what that means for your kid. Here is everything I’ve been able to figure out so far, including links below to folks who are and I will updating this post as I know more!

Is my child care closing?

While schools are closed, the state is not requiring child cares to close at this time, because their position is if families are working, children need a safe place to go. Stay tuned because this could certainly change for the rest of us, though not for emergency personnel.

It is up to the provider if they will be closing or not. Many providers and teachers I have talked to have significant concerns about remaining open and have been calling on the Governor to close the existing child care systems and allow current providers to apply to be emergency child care sites that only serve critical infrastructure families. If you agree with them (as I do) you can click here to sign this petition in support.

For its part, the Early Learning Division is doing everything it can to keep providers open. They are currently making exceptions to state required ratios and capacity limits on a case-by-case basis although most providers I’ve talked to think ratios need to be lower, not higher, so I’m not clear how much this provision is actually being used. The Early Learning Division says they are maintaining child care in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority. You can also check here for their FAQ on COVID-19 measures.

If my child care is open, should I send my kids?

The official guidance from the state is this:

Families for whom child care is not absolutely necessary should keep their children at home to ensure caregivers who remain open can serve those most in need, such as health care workers and other first responders.

Oregon Early Learning Division FAQ for Families

At this point in the pandemic, where we’re talking about staying home to save lives, if you are not in critical infrastructure or in a vulnerable community where not showing up for works means you are unable to feed your family, please keep your family home with you. Child care workers (and many nannies I’ve talked to) are terrified of being exposed as we already had a report this weekend of the first daycare worker being infected in Hillsboro. Social distancing is just really hard to do with people who slobber all over toys and each other…so if you don’t have to leave the house for your job right now, don’t send your kid into care.

If I am in a critical infrastructure role, where can I find care?

So on 3/18 the state emailed all licensed providers and asked them to complete a survey sharing any openings they have. That information is being funneled to 211, and you can call their operators to get the details. Here are some additional options:

If my child care closes, will I get a refund?

The Early Learning Division has taken no position on this and told people to check the contract. Most folks I have talked to don’t want staff to go without their paycheck and they definitely don’t want to lay folks off as good people are very, very hard to come by in this business, so for the month of March largely didn’t do refunds. These are for the most part small businesses with very thin margins so they can either pay teachers or refund tuition, but not both.

The big question now is what’s going to happen with April (and perhaps May) tuition. Here’s the issue – even if providers layoff teachers (which many are planning to do in April) and don’t take in tuition, they do’nt have enough reserves on hand to cover rent, utilities, etc and I’m hearing from lots of people they believe they will have to go out of business by May/early June. Needless to say, that’s a pretty dire situation for those of us who want child care to come back to on the other side. At this point, I’d recommend having a conversation with your provider about what is doable for you and for them in terms of keeping the business going if you like the care you’re getting. Behind the scenes, scores of providers have been lobbying elected officials at every level. Here’s another opportunity to sign that petition that advocates for a number of funding measures to keep this industry afloat.

Anything else?

If you have a nanny, I think it’s probably time to think really hard about whether or not it makes sense to have this person to continue to come to your home to provide care given the risk of exposure to them and the community if we continue to have people traveling back and forth. You will need to think seriously about whether or not your are paying them during this time or not. I know that’s a tall order and also if you are the only family working with this person, they are your employee and dependent on you. If you decide not to continue paying them I would definitely formally lay them off so that they can collect unemployment. If you have been paying them under the table (which is not legal), that will be impossible to do.

If you are searching for care, I would say hold on for a few weeks. Right now providers are trying to figure out what they’re doing for April and whether or not they’ll be able to stay in business on the other side. I would give it a few weeks until we get clarity on whether or not there will be a relief package to support child cares, and then start checking back in again. And definitely look me up on the other side because if you thought care was hard to come by before, even if we do get a relief package I think odds are very good that it will be even more difficult to find.

Need to get in touch with me? You can find me at renjohns.com, on Facebook, on Instagram, or email ren at pdxwaitlist.com

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