Editor’s note: This story is part of our MC faculty and staff series in which professors and/or staff discuss relevant topics within their areas of expertise. Sonia Pruneda-Hernandez discusses how the pandemic has affected child care providers and families.
Professor Pruneda-Hernandez is the collegewide chair, Early Childhood Education programs. She is a current doctoral candidate of early childhood education at Walden University.
By Sonia Pruneda-Hernandez
Many headlines in the news regarding child care highlight the havoc that COVID-19 has caused on families, children, and child care providers. After March 13, 2020, child care centers, family child care providers, and school-age programs closed or were limited to how many children could be enrolled to ensure safety during the pandemic. When public schools closed their doors, school-age care programs that used public school spaces to care for elementary-age children before and after school also closed.
Locally, though, many child care centers and family child care providers remained open. Child care providers in Montgomery County—many who are Montgomery College students—applied for and were approved as Essential Personnel Child Care. With that special designation, child care providers (centers or family child care) could remain open to provide care for people deemed as essential workers. To further support essential personnel and child care providers, the state of Maryland approved funding for Essential Personnel Child Care between March 30 and June 7 this year.
Because child care is deemed critical to not only families, but communities as well, child care centers and family child care providers received approval to reopen by the governor on June 11; however, to ensure that safety protocols could be followed, child care centers were limited in the number of children they could accept.
School age care programs have reopened and many have changed their hours to all-day care to accommodate working parents.
Like the rest of the community with school-aged children, MC employees and students with children quickly learned that the child care services they depended on were no longer available to them. At the same time, they began working from home while trying to support young children and school-age children with remote learning.
On June 11, the Maryland State Department of Education announced that child care centers, school-age programs, and family child care providers could reopen. Many saw no choice but to reopen to recoup financial losses they had already incurred between March and June, while others closed their doors permanently.
Finding Child Care Now
School age care programs have reopened and many have changed their hours to all-day care to accommodate working parents. Due to the high need for school-age care, many child care centers have been allowed to add school-age care classrooms to support working families who need all-day child care for children ages 5 through 12.
Family child care is also an option for high-quality care.
Many child care programs that decided to not reopen or could not reopen, have become creative in supporting parents with virtual learning. The MC Early Education Lab School hosts virtual learning times for children of MC students and employees. MC employees interested in the school’s virtual learning opportunities can contact Lynnette Weaver, the center’s program director, for more information.
Get Started on a Career in Early Childhood Education
The MC Early Childhood Education Program has the only nationally accredited associates of applied science degree in Maryland. The MC Early Childhood Education Program is one of the very few programs nationally that supports child care providers (early childhood educators) with a guided pathway from noncredit to credit so child care providers (early childhood educators) can provide high-quality education and care to young children in the community. For information, visit the Montgomery College early childhood education website.
Banner photo credit: Kevaje Fimija