What COVID-19 safety protocols should my child care provider have in place?
As we move through the summer, many families are in the process of enrolling (or re-enrolling) in early education or child care programs for the fall of 2021. For many, this is happening following a year at home weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, and parents and caregivers likely have new concerns and questions as they begin their search for the right program. There is no doubt that we’re in a much better place than we were a year ago, but understanding pandemic protocols and enhanced safety measures in child care and early education facilities will help ensure you make the right decisions for your child.
The good news is proper planning and adherence of CDC and SCDHEC guidelines make it possible for the vast majority of child care programs to remain open for families. Those that are open should have a comprehensive safety plan in place when it comes to COVID-19 prevention among staff and children in their care, and parents and caregivers should ask for and review it. While safety precautions may differ from facility to facility, parents and caregivers can expect to see some changes, especially if they’ve been home with their child for the past year. Here are some safety protocols to look for:
Drop-off and pick-up changes
For many facilities, child drop-off and pick-up procedures may be different than what parents remember as being normal. Limiting the number of adults inside a facility offers greater protection for staff and students when it comes to COVID-19 exposure. Therefore, some providers may conduct drop-off and pick-up outdoors instead of having parents come inside to collect their child. Visitors during the day, including parents, are also greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.
Daily health screenings have become the norm for many child care and early education facilities. Parents and caregivers can likely expect their program’s staff to take temperatures at drop-off or even answer questionnaires confirming absence of COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposures.
As physical distancing was demonstrated to be one of the primary ways of minimizing risk, parents and caregivers will notice some changes throughout their child’s day designed to provide them a little more personal space. Meal times, nap times, bathroom breaks, and joint play times all offer these opportunities. Most early childhood education and child care facilities have figured out ways to space children out during these times. They may also choose to not gather with other classes or school groups for playtime as they did pre-pandemic.
Masks or facial coverings are recommended by the CDC for anyone unvaccinated over the age of 2-years-old. Many child care facilities have varying policies on masking students, but an unvaccinated staff member or teacher should have some sort of facial covering while at work.
Parents and caregivers can expect a comprehensive plan from their child care program when it comes to a student or staff member exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19. For many, the symptomatic child or staff member must remain home until they have seen a doctor and all symptoms are gone. Many facilities will require a negative COVID-19 test or doctor’s note attributing the illness to something else and for all symptoms to be gone before a student or staff member may return to school. Staff members and/or students who may test positive for COVID-19, along with fellow exposed classmates, will likely be required to quarantine.
Hand washing and sanitizing
As with most public spaces, parents and caregivers should expect to see a lot of hand sanitizing stations at any child care or early education facility they attend. Children in most child care facilities will be encouraged by staff members to wash hands properly and several times a day. Proper and frequent hand washing helps prevent COVID-19 and many other childhood illnesses.
In addition to hand washing, frequent cleaning of your child's environment should be a top priority. Most child care facilities have increased cleaning protocols right now, which means items like nap mats, toys and other high touch surfaces are disinfected multiple times a day.
For families enrolling their children in an early education or child care program, researching what precautions are in place and how they may affect their child's teaching and care experience is simply smart planning. While any transition in child care or routine can be tough, knowing what to expect and how best to protect yourself and your child will help smooth entry—or re-entry—to an early education or child care facility.
By ABC Quality Team on August 20, 2021