Working families need child care but, in the CNMI, private child care providers will have to wait longer before they can reopen.
As the government resumes operations, businesses slowly reopen, and, with schools being out, many parents are now having to juggle time between work and home, to perform their work duties while attending to the needs of their children. At the moment, private child care providers remain close and are waiting for a memo from the Child Care Licensing Program and the Child Care and Development Fund Program, both under Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, to reopen.
“The reality is, private child care providers are not going to be opening until the tail-end of this crisis, when we know it’s absolutely safe to have young kids congregate,” DCCA Secretary Robert Hunter said.
“Child care is kind of a complex issue because there really is no social distancing with infants to 6-year-olds. You can separate spaces for seats and do a whole range of things but kids are kids. You can’t keep them 6 [or] 8 feet apart all day long every day.”
DCCA has been meeting with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to come up with protocols for different situations.
Hunter added that DCCA has a Relative Care program in place, to help remedy some of the parents’ needs in terms of child care.
“We have Relative Care in place, that’s the grandmother, the aunt, or whoever else that’s a relative to take care of one or two or three children in the house, and we’re supporting that with some financial assistance,” he said.
DCCA is also working with CDC on an Expanded Home Care program, which they expect to roll out within the next few weeks. According to Hunter, Expanded Home Care might also help those who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed.
“They would be able to take care of a particular number of children within their household, depending on the size, and we’ll have all the health and safety measures in place at every house that participates in that. There will be smaller numbers of kids in residential homes,” he said.