November 17, 2021

Adjusting to distance learning in Alameda County

This is episode 4 in the 'Pandemic Provider Interview' series. You can find more episodes here.

School age is really difficult because I have one kindergartner who you literally have to sit next to him the whole entire time, because he can't sit by himself. He’ll like turn off the computer and just can't focus really well. But again, my son here, he's working from home, he'll work on his computer and sit next to him while the little boy is doing Zoom. Because if you leave him, you know, he’ll start playing around, it’s hard for him to focus. So, to me, you need another staff, and if I didn't have my son, there's no way I could have done it.

And another thing about school aged kids, the subsidy pays you less and I’m like, actually you could pay me more for subsidies because especially having to Zoom with them and having to sit…you have to help with it, you know, so it's like a whole new staff to watch those children. I had to put them in a room that wasn’t normally for child care, you know I had to put them in my entryway because it would be too much noise in the room with all the daycare kids.

And I’m constantly having to tell the other friends to ‘shh be quiet’, because the other two are doing work on Zoom, which is really not fair to the other kids when they're just being kids having fun. But they have to lower their voices, because, you know, the way my house is set up is they could hear, like even today, a little boy was on Zoom and his teacher had to tell the little boy that I have ‘put yours on mute’ because she could hear the kids in the other room, my daycare kids, just playing. And I'm always telling them to be quiet because of these two Zoom kids, so it's really kind of hard.

Interviewer:

And you are a family child care provider, correct?

Provider:

Yes. I'm from a large family child care home.

Interviewer:

Okay, great. How long have you had your business or been in the field?

Provider:

I've been licensed for almost 17 years and in June it will be 17 years.

Interviewer:

Just generally, tell me about your experience providing care during the pandemic, like, were you open the whole time? Did you have to close temporarily? I don't think you closed permanently. But any?

Provider:

Yes, I had to close temporarily. Then I had a COVID case. I had to close off before the fourth child ended up getting COVID 19.

Interviewer:

What was the reason for the first time you had to close temporarily?

Provider:

It was because I only had essential workers and all my parents weren't essential workers and I only had one essential worker.

Interviewer:

Oh, I see. There was just nobody coming anymore. Right? caring for anybody.

Provider:

Because Governor Newsom said only essential workers could come and most of my parents were working from home.

Interviewer:

Did you get all of your kids back? Did you lose any?

Provider:

I lost them. I had a full house. I had fourteen and I lost like, five.

Interviewer:

How did that financially impact your business? Were you still able to pay all of your bills?

Provider:

Well, because I'm married, that helped, so he was able to help out. I had to let one of my workers go and layed off her. Well she kind of left herself because I had to give her less hours and she needed more hours. She was a really good employee, but had to leave because of that. So I was really sad about it because I really liked her and she was really good with the kids.

Interviewer:

And now are you still under capacity, bringing less than enrollment?

Provider:

Yes, I’m still under. I'll say a quarter, a quarter of what I made is gone. Unfortunately. Yes.

Interviewer:

If you didn't have your husband's income, do you think you would have been able to make it through the pandemic?

Provider:

Absolutely not! No, absolutely not. If I didn't have that other income that helped, that saved the day. What else also helped me, was my daughter. She was away in college and she had to leave. So she came home and she was able to help.

Interviewer:

Have you been trying to fill the vacancies that you have open?

Provider:

So I kind of want to get more help and other staff members first, but I would fill it if I can. I would. Definitely yes. I'm not a person that advertises, not usually stable with word of mouth., so I do have two people that are coming. In July, I held two spaces for July. So kids that used to come here anyway, they have a sibling now and they're coming because all my kids want to walk in so the child is old enough now. So in July, I have two more..

Interviewer:

Have you noticed any change in demand by age group for your care?

Provider:

Definitely, because I didn't sign up per school age, because that's a whole new experience because school age is really difficult. I have one kindergartner who you literally have to sit next to him the whole entire time, because he can't sit by himself because he’ll like to turn off the computer and just can't focus really well. But again, my son here, he's working from home, he'll work on his computer and sit next to him while the little boy is doing Zoom. Because if you leave him, you know, he’ll start playing around, it’s hard for him to focus. So, to me, you need another staff member, and if I didn't have my son, there's no way I could have done it. And another thing about school aged kids is that the subsidy pays you less. I’m like, actually you should pay me more for the subsidies because especially having to Zoom with them and having to sit…you have three and the other two you have to help with it, you know, so it's like a whole new staff to watch those children. Right? I had to put them in a room that wasn’t normally for child care. I had to put them in my entryway because there would be too much noise in the room with all the daycare kids. I’m constantly having to tell the other friends to ‘shh be quiet’, because the other two are doing work on Zoom, which is really not fair to the other kids when they're just being kids having fun. But they have to lower their voices, because, the way my house is set up is that they could hear, like even today, a little boy was on Zoom and his teacher had to tell the little boy that I have ‘put yours on mute’ because she could hear the kids in the other room, my daycare kids, ya know, just playing. I'm always telling them to be quiet because of these one or two Zoom kids, so it's really kind of hard.

Interviewer:

Are there any other changes you had to make to your program to adjust to the school aged kids?

Provider:

Well, more food because the school age kids eat more, which is more PPE equipment and just more cleaning. I'm working more because I have to clean more because every time someone uses a toy, you know, clean, and not that I didn't clean before but I'm cleaning, you know, triple times more now. This is just everything that I’m doing now. I had to get different games and stuff for them to play with because all my stuff is for younger kids so I had to get stuff that we didn’t have for the older kids, so I had to do things that would entertain them. Then at nap time, which I allow because they don’t want to sleep on the cot, which interrupts my time, because usually I have all the kids sleep, and then now I have school age kids. You still have to watch them, and that used to be my peace, ya know? 2 hours of just straight peace without hearing talking and now you have the school age kids that ya know, so I feel like I don’t get my school breaks because of those school-age kids. Normally we usually have that 2 hour break, but ya know that’s gone.

Interviewer:

How much extra time would you say that you're spending on all these different safety measures, the cleaning and everything else?

Provider:

Oh man, many, many more. I would say a good two and half hours more a day. Morning and then in the evening doing really deep cleaning, after all the kids leave, then deep clean after they leave. Throughout the day too, we always clean.

Interviewer:

Have you had to spend more money on these things because of the pandemic?

Provider:

Yes, absolutely. Cleaning supplies, you know, oxiclean, buying masks for the children because the children have to wear masks and I supply them with masks. It's just, you know, any type of cleaning the Lysol spray, you know, bananas have been wonderful, giving us stuff. But, I mean, we haven't got any spray from them, you know? So stuff like that is what I’m spending money on and I'm buying my own cleansers too. Stuff like that, ya know, pine-salt, that I like to clean with and then even like at work, like I have carpet and I need stuff to clean the rugs, which I didn't get by for bananas, the stuff that I've purchased.

Interviewer:

How has it been trying to keep the kids in masks and keep them distanced?

Provider:

Extremely hard to keep them. Masks are just so hard. They're tough, I constantly have to remind them, like you should be using those. But, what's more hard is keeping the six feet away distance rule, which is really impossible. They like to play with each other, or they tell you nonetheless Two of the kids like to play with blocks together and that's so hard because we've taught them to share and now we tell them not to share now.

Interviewer:

Have you noticed any impact it's had on the kids?

Provider:

Yeah, I see a lot of behaviors. A couple kids are really having behavior challenges and I think it's because of being locked up so much. They are locked up, but not able to go places. We used to go on field trips, and now we take them for a walk, but at first I didn't, I've just started back recently taking them for walks. It's just different, you know. The parents can’t come inside like they used to see the kids, you know, they will come inside and watch circle time some time or just come in to say hello, now. The parents packed the fence and the door because I know that parents would love to come in and see all of them, so I tried to put our projects by the door.

Interviewer:

Can you talk about any fear or anxiety you’ve had, you, or your family, or the children in your care getting exposed to COVID?

Provider:

So when it first happened, I would barely go anywhere. You know, I was really conscious about going anywhere, and anybody coming over. It was just going to essential places like the grocery store. At this point, I actually skipped a lot of doctor's appointments because I really didn't want to be exposed unless I really, really had to. Like going to the dentist, it took me a year to get enough confidence to go to the dentist. So it really impacted me about being nervous and scared to go places because I didn't want to get COVID-19, but I got the vaccine now. So I'm two weeks out, well over two weeks actually, so my whole family of five, we all got it. So that made me happy. I had started watching the news and so much was going on, on the news. I watch the news all the time and it was making me sad. So I said I have to stop watching there, buddy. So I tried to start watching different type of shows because it just felt less impactful on me and and it made me sad all the time, you know?

Interviewer:

Did you feel like you had enough that you felt comfortable that you were able to keep everybody safe?

Provider:

Yes, I did. I really did. I think bananas did extremely well by helping out with the PPE. So I'm very grateful for them.

Interviewer:

What would you say was the most helpful support for you over the past year?

Provider:

Well, I have a really close friend that has a family child care home also so we were able to talk because sometimes you could talk to other people that are not in the field, but they don't understand what you're going through. I had a support person with her and we would help each other! We would let each other know and share stuff together because we were in it together. I felt like I had a person to talk to and that really helped me out, just having a colleague to talk to. We met because our kids went to school together, but we go to classes together. We've been to Chicago conferences and Florida conferences for family childcare. We've been to San Diego and then in July, we're going to the one in New Orleans. So we've been roommates. It seems like a loop method, a new best friend, but I've known her probably for like seven-eight years now and we just talk every day.

Interviewer:

Is there any other impact that the pandemic has had on your family, related to your childcare business that you’d like to share?

Provider:

I know that they're doing it, because, I mean, they love children, but I know that's not my son. That's what he wants to do all the time, but he's great, you know, helping out. He knows how much I need him right now and I really didn't want to hire anybody else because I was really scared about the exposure, because I know how safe we are. I even had another employee that I really really liked, but I knew that she didn't take the pandemic as seriously as I would and she always would be going somewhere. I'm going here. I'm going there and I didn't want her to bring that and that was before the vaccine. I didn't want her bringing that to my house. I just know that she was going to so many places and I would try to hint at her like, I don't really go to any places because I'm scared and I don’t like the COVID-19, but she still didn’t hear me. She would just be going to so many places, like crowds and overnight trips and stuff, when it was really fresh. I was like, Oh, I couldn’t do that and I don't know how to police them either. Maybe you could tell him that, you know, I prefer you not go out, but a lot of stuff is church related. So, she would go on retreats and stuff, but still you got to be careful, you know? Yeah. Even if it's church related.

Interviewer:

What would you say was the hardest part of being a family child care provider during the pandemic?

Provider:

The hardest part is, especially in the beginning, is not hugging and kissing like I normally do and that is so hard or having the parents not be able to come in. I didn't get to have my Christmas program. I do a big Christmas program every year. So I was at my church, Congressman base and all the kids and families and their cousins, and grandmas all came. That's like an annual thing I do and the graduation, I couldn't have this year, so that was hard. That's like a tradition I've been doing every year. That and everybody looks forward to it. I have food catered and everything is like a big event. In the end, I couldn't do it. This year, I probably scaled down because usually I have everybody come with all the kids at our choice again. But this year, I've just got to have the graduates and let them bring like maybe two or three guests, which normally everybody just brought whoever they wanted to just have a big celebration. So it's gonna be something much, much smaller than I normally have.

Interviewer:

So what would you say has been the most helpful thing for you during the pandemic?

Provider:

What helped was, the grants that were offered, that helped out financially and just some of the needs provided, like the fight bananas workshop. I did one yesterday and that helped out.

Interviewer:

Is there anything that would have been helpful that you didn't get?

Provider:

What would have been nice is being paid? For the school aged kids, I think we should have more because it's more one on one we have to do with the school aged kids. It’s kind of backwards to me that they're paying us less to have school aged kids all day versus the other kids because school-aged kids eat more plus you have to do one on one work with them.