By Kim Dishongh
A $25,000 COVID-19 Phase 2 Adaptation Grant from Arkansas Community Foundation is making it possible for Child Care Aware of NWA to help facilities that have been caring for the children of essential workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Childcare for essential workers has remained a critical need throughout the pandemic, but many childcare centers are suffering because a significant portion of their clients are working from home or have lost their jobs and aren’t currently using childcare services.
Carolene Thornton, director of Child Care Aware of NWA, said some of the grant funds will be used to purchase equipment and programs to make it simpler to provide childcare center staff with required professional development and training.
“We have a big conference every year in May for about 300 or 400 people, and we had to cancel it,” said Thornton. “We did that virtually. We had about 50 or 60 people come online to do it. We may do that again in the fall. They had problems with their professional development requirements, and we wanted them to be able to get in their professional development hours.”
Some of the centers, especially those where several of the children have parents who are on the front lines treating patients in hospitals or in poultry plants where COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported, have asked for help in sourcing cleaning products, personal protection equipment, hand sanitizer and paper towels.
“We couldn’t find booties for a while. They’re supposed to have booties to go into the infant toddler room,” said Thornton. “I was surprised when some of them told me they couldn’t get paper towels. There’s a lot more cleaning they have to do, a lot more they need to wipe things down. We’re just scrambling trying to find what they need.”
Other childcare centers need assistance in making payroll payments, with the number of children enrolled down and the expenses associated with caring for them up, both situations the result of COVID-19.
Thornton plans to survey child care centers in the area to see what their biggest needs are so Child Care Aware NWA can direct grant funds to assist with as many of those as possible in hopes of helping struggling centers keep their doors open so they can be ready to serve families as they do return to work.
“We’ll just do what we can to help them,” she said.
For more information about Child Care Aware of Northwest Arkansas, visit them online or find them on Facebook.