The Marin Community Foundation has given the Marin Child Care Council a $1 million grant to bolster the county’s network of child care providers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Both family child care providers, who typically care for children in their own homes, and larger child care centers are struggling to remain financially viable under new state and county guidelines designed to reduce the spread of the disease.
“The reason for this immediate infusion of $1 million is there is no service more central in our community than child care,” said Thomas Peters, the foundation’s chief executive.
Peters said that in addition to providing quality care and education for children, the services free parents to earn a living so the overall economy can recover.
Aideen Gaidmore, executive director of the Marin Child Care Council, said so far only 69 of Marin’s 140 child care centers and 121 of its 163 smaller family child care providers have reopened following the “shelter in place” order.
Gaidmore said at least two Marin child care centers and four family child care providers have ceased operations, and it is impossible to predict how many of those closed will eventually reopen.
“We can’t afford to lose that amount of supply in the county,” she said. “We need to make sure these programs can reopen because our low-income workers are the ones who are working now and need to find child care. For our economy to recover, we need to have child care in place.”
Child care providers must adhere to state regulations that require them to have at least one adult supervising every 10 kids. The state regulations also specify that child care sites with more than one group of 10 children must house the groups in separate rooms or spaces; groups are not to mix.
“With the stricter regulations,” Gaidmore said, “the child care providers have fewer children and higher staffing costs, as well as higher cleaning and sanitation costs.”
Gaidmore said that even before the pandemic, funding for child care was woefully inadequate.
“Now we’re in crisis mode,” she said.
Monique Liebhard, vice president of children and family services at Community Action Marin, said her organization is able to provide child care for about 550 kids.
“That is half of what we would normally do in a non-COVID year,” Liebhard said. “We need to have smaller group sizes but maintain the same level of staffing. These funds will provide a buffer and allow us to continue to serve families. It is essential.”
Liebhard said new coronavirus regulations aren’t the only reason the number of children Community Action Marin is caring for is down.
“Parents are hesitant to come back because of ongoing COVID fears,” she said.
Susan Gilmore, chief executive of North Bay Children’s Center in Novato, said the 161 children her center is currently caring for represents 46% of the number it was previously serving.
“We’re really struggling to get programs reopened and get services to families,” Gilmore said. “This grant from Marin Community Foundation is going to be a huge help.”
Cheryl Paddack, chief executive officer of North Marin Community Services, said her organization is providing child care for 75 kids.
“We have double the amount of staff and half the number of kids because of the COVID health and safety regulations, so the funding will definitely be helpful to support our deficit,” Paddack said.
Gaidmore said some child care centers are also providing expanded after school care for school-age children because schools have moved to distance learning during the pandemic.
“That has put another strain on our child care programs,” Gaidmore said.
Gilmore said, “We’re doing everything we can to support families and children who don’t have the technology for distance learning or the luxury of forming learning pods. This funding is going to help with that.”
Paddack said, “We’re offering full-time remote learning Monday through Friday while Novato Unified is not in session. We’re their learning pods so their parents, who are essential workers, can be in the workforce.”
Gaidmore said any child care provider that is open or planning to open may apply to receive a share of the funding being provided by Marin Community Foundation.
“We won’t know the amount of funding each program will get,” she said, “until we get a feel for who is applying for it.”
Gilmore said, “We applaud Marin Community Foundation for recognizing that child care is essential and recognizing that our country’s economic recovery depends on families being able to return to work.”