Health care workers, first responders, grocery store staff and other essential workers have stepped up to the plate to keep their community running during the coronavirus outbreak.
That responsibility leaves many parents searching for good childcare.
Children’s Resource and Referral of Santa Barbara County (CRR) has the most comprehensive list of local childcare providers available and is connecting those providers to parents in need.
“Our phone lines are active and are answered between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day,” Executive Director Michelle Graham said. She explained that the CRR offices in Santa Barbara, at 4141 State Street, #D 1.4, and in Santa Maria, at 124 W. Carmen Lane, Suite C, are closed to walk-in clients.
“We have a referral line that families can call who are looking for childcare. When they call we are giving them a list of childcare providers that are currently open taking both emergency placement as well as those that are looking for long-term placement, but specifically we are serving the essential workforce,” Ms. Graham said.
She said when a parent calls looking for child care, CRR staff then asks them background questions about their demographics.
“For example, if you called and said, ‘I have a 3-year-old and I need childcare because I am still working,’ we would ask you things like ‘Where do you live? Do you want your child care close to your employment? Close to your home? Would you prefer for your child to be immersed with English or Spanish?’” Ms. Graham said.
CRR staff also asks parents if they are looking for center-based or family child care and the hours they need child care for. While many parents are working from home with their children because of stay-at-home orders, medical workers sometimes require care for up to 24 hours of care on short notice or a provider with drop-in availability.
Once CRR staff understands the client’s needs, they provide a curated list of local child care providers they feel will be a good match.
“There are so many variants that each family has…once we have all of that information, we can connect them to a provider…if it was a medical field and they needed overnight, we’re not just going to give them a giant list of programs that may or may not have that availability, we would only give them the list of those who had 24-hour care who were open in the city that they were looking for, things like that, very specific to their needs,” Ms. Graham said.
Information on center-based care and large family care providers is available to the public, but small family child care is not. Family care is child care provided in someone’s home. Small family care providers are licensed to care for up to eight children at a time.
“For reasons of privacy, small licenses are not public information and therefore, they wouldn’t be able to find that. You couldn’t find that anywhere else. Nor do we provide that list. We don’t provide an all-inclusive list of every (provider), but we’ll give families, who are looking for childcare, a list of a handful (of providers) to go research to see if they are a good fit for them,” Ms. Graham said.
She added that there is federal and state funding available for families who need child care services, but cannot afford it. Usually, families could wait years for their request for government child care assistance to be approved. Because of the pandemic more funding is available and cases are being processed quickly.
“Usually people will apply for funding and…people to wait a year or two years, people could become ineligible at some point, right, they’ve moved on. But, right now, we have a lot of federal and state dollars to be able to pay for childcare in this crisis. So, it’s just hard to get the word out on that, but it’s definitely available and families are in need of it,” Ms. Graham said.
CRR is also helping child care providers obtain cleaning supplies, like bleach and hand sanitizer, that have become hard to find because of skyrocketing demand.
They are also posting information on sanitation, home washing, and healthy activities for children during home isolation on their social media platforms.
For more information visit https://www.sbfcc.org or follow CRR on social media at https://www.facebook.com/childrensresourceandreferral/ and https://www.instagram.com/childrens.rr/