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Local Child Care Facilities

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. (April 30, 2020) - When the Governor of California issued the state-wide Shelter in Place order in mid-March, and nearly all of the state’s public schools dismissed their students for the remainder of the school-year, child care providers were placed in a difficult situation.

Considered essential businesses, they were allowed to remain open as long as they followed social distancing precautions and increased cleaning procedures. The concern was that essential workers in other industries would still need care for their children in order to continue their jobs to support this health crisis.

But it hasn’t been easy for Lake County’s early learning teachers, providers and staff.

Many local facilities watched their enrollment dwindle as working parents lost jobs or were furloughed, and no longer had the need or finances to send their children to child care. Some parents kept their children at home because they were concerned that their child would contract the virus in a group setting.

More stringent cleaning protocols required implementation, yet owners encountered difficulties in getting basic goods to run their businesses, such as cleaning products and food.

Many facilities had to close.

Carla Ritz, Executive Director of First 5 Lake, explains, “When COVID-19 social distancing precautions were ordered, 30 out of 31 child care centers in the county closed their doors along with 21 out of 70 licensed family child care homes.”

Support was available in Lake County through a partnership of local agencies dedicated to increasing the quality of child care providers in Lake County. The Lake County Child Care Planning Council (LPC), a consortium of agencies and non-profits, works to build partnerships with individuals and organizations in our community to help meet the child care needs of our communities.

Angela Cuellar-Marroquin of the Lake County Office of Education (LCOE) is the Coordinator of the LPC. “We truly are all in this together. Multiple local agencies are working hand-in-hand together during this health crisis.”

Carla Ritz, Executive Director of First 5 Lake, explains, “First 5 California invests in California's child care system by funding the IMPACT (Improve and Maximize Programs so All Children Thrive) approach to quality improvement throughout the state.”

“In Lake County, First 5 Lake has served as the lead agency overseeing the use of the $853,110 in IMPACT funding that has been invested in Lake County over the past five years, and Lake County Office of Education staff have implemented the program.”

The Lake County Office of Education typically uses IMPACT dollars to fund Quality Rating and Improvement System, otherwise known as QRIS, also headed by Cuellar-Marroquin.

But during this health crisis, QRIS was allowed to repurpose their IMPACT grant funding. This includes incentive stipends for providers remaining open to serve essential workers, materials for programs that are serving new age groups, and materials for sites to distribute to parents to use with children while sheltering in place.

“I think some of the most heart-warming things I’ve seen in this pandemic are those providers who have had to close, yet they are still taking care of their students from a distance,” says Cuellar-Marroquin. “The providers might be closed, yet every week, and sometimes every day, they are on Zoom with their children, or doing circle times via Facebook Live. I’ve even had providers who are closed reaching out to us for take-home materials, because they know their students at home are in need of supplies to keep on track with their early childhood learning.”

The reality though is that providers are still grappling with getting the basic supplies they need to follow protocols.

"Providers in Lake County have been diligent in following all Community Care Licensing rules and regulations related to social distancing and cleaning procedures to best protect the children and themselves. They are finding it difficult to secure cleaning materials, sometimes specific food items and other essential items for their operations." says Jamie Castaldo, Resource & Referral Manager, Rural Communities Child Care, A program of North Coast Opportunities.

Ritz says, “Help is on the way!”

She explains that recently, the First 5 California Commission held an emergency meeting and authorized funding to contract with SupplyBank.org to provide relief to providers in need of essential supplies for babies and young children, such as diapers, wipes and gloves, in addition to much-needed sanitation items. Lake County is expecting multiple shipments from SupplyBank over the next 60 days to meet that need locally.

Quality child care is now becoming an important issue in the re-opening of the economy.

In Governor Newsom’s April 28, 2020 press conference, he said, “Child care is foundational to getting people back to work. If they cannot get the kind of quality child care that they deserve they are less likely to get back to work and jump start this economy."

Brock Falkenberg, Lake County Superintendent of Schools and a Commissioner on the First 5 Lake Board says, “We know that quality child care is more important than ever now, and organizations such as First 5 Lake, North Coast Opportunities, and the Lake County Office of Education will continue committing time and energy towards helping our parents get back to work, by making quality child care available here in Lake County.”

There are open local child care slots available. Lake County families seeking child care can call the referral message line at North Coast Opportunities at (707) 467-3211. Calls are returned within 24 hours.

For families who need financial assistance to help pay for child care, there are a limited number of subsidized child care slots available for essential workers. To find out if you qualify, visit ncoinc.org and complete the wait list application.

For child care providers interested in becoming a part of QRIS, please contact Angela Cuellar at acuellar@lakecoe.org. For more information about QRIS, please visit lakecoe.org/QRIS.