So many parents didn’t think we would be here again: our kids back in school with a remote setup looking similar to how we wrapped up last Spring! The pandemic lasting longer than originally thought has meant distance learning has kicked off again for Bay Area kids this Fall. For parents who work out of the home it poses an even greater challenge and concern: what are the safe options for school-age children who need supervision during school hours, as well as distance learning technical assistance and support? Here is an overview of the current, various daytime options for school-age children:

Licensed providers continue to be a reliable option and referrals of licensed providers in Northern Alameda County can be obtained by contacting the BANANAS Referral Service at 510-658-0381, referrals@bananasbunch.org, or visiting our Referrals webpage HERE

These programs consist of:

Licensed family child care providers: programs that operate out of a provider’s home, and

Licensed child care centers: facilities that operate in non-home settings.

Once getting referrals, it is important to contact as many licensed programs as possible in order to compare and determine the quality of care. This can feel challenging now and BANANAS referral staff can discuss with you about best practices when looking for care during the pandemic. These practices should include: 

  • Thoroughly interviewing the primary caregiver over the phone.
  • Calling references; people who have used the caregiver. These you can get from the provider.
  • Making arrangements to see the program, and maybe observe the provider working with children. This is tricky these days. See if the provider would allow you to look through windows, over a fence or, at the very least, give you a tour on their phone. 
  • Checking their licensing history. These programs have earned their license from Community Care Licensing (Department of Social Services), and parents can contact https://cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/child-care-licensing/resources-for-parents or 844-538-8766 to get more information about a program’s licensing history. 

Alameda County Department of Public Health’s Reopening & Recovery health and safety resource for child care programs and schools has very useful information and can be found here: Recovery | COVID-19 | Alameda County Public Health 

When looking for an environment for a school-age child, ask questions of providers in order to help verify the quality of care and determine best-fit of child care programs such as:

  • What activities and arrangements do they have for school-age children?
  • How many children are in care and how are different age groups managed?
  • Are student workstations setup, and is there high-speed Wifi that supports distance learning?
  • What is the outdoor physical setting like, and how flexible is the schedule to accommodate the important play needs of children?

The state’s child care licensing agency recently issued an official notice regarding an application process for a temporary waiver. If an application is approved, this would allow a licensed program (or license-exempt program) to operate without a license, or “beyond the current conditions for licensure or exemption” – in order to expand capacity to serve primarily school-age children during this time. So, for instance, after-school programs or summer camps would be able to create full day, full week, school year option. It remains to be seen how many programs will be granted this expansion option. BANANAS is in communication with Community Care Licensing to make sure we are notified when and if these programs become available. 

Even though licensed child care settings are a good option for families, during the pandemic it can be harder to find available programs with spaces for children. Therefore, here are some other creative solutions families are using:

Shared caregiver arrangements: parent-created child care situations where one caregiver is hired to care for the children from two or more families. The care can take place in one parent’s home or it can rotate among the homes of the participating families. Shared caregiver situations are completely managed by the participating parents and there is no license for this type of care, as long as it is happening in the parents’ homes. All the responsibility for screening and contacting references is upon the parents who are the employers of a domestic worker. This means there are tax, minimum wage, and overtime pay implications. Parents interested in hiring this type of care can contact BANANAS for more information and visit BANANAS Community Jobs Listings to post the job announcement.

Parents can also create care pods in each other’s homes, rotating responsibility for supervising the group (instead of hiring a nanny or tutor) and parents simply exchange their time and support. The key is that no one is being paid. Parents can also use BANANAS Community Jobs Listings at https://bananasbunch.org/job-listings/ to post their interest in forming a care pod and to look for others who would like to join. 

This is proving to be a unique academic year during a difficult time for parents, teachers, child care providers, and school-age kids! But take heart, and remember that children remain resilient while caring adults ensure their safety and success.

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