Ohio child care provider: “we are their safe place”

This is the story of Amanda Dettrow, an Ohio child care provider with a center based in a nursing home.

Hilty Preschool and Child Care is an inter-generational full day preschool program that offers care for children 6 weeks – 12 year old children. We had 97 children enrolled for 2020 spring.

We are utterly blessed to be located in the nursing home, it allows interaction for both groups. Children get loving relationships they may not have at home, and resident get visits filled with giggles and smiles. Mennonite Homes Communities of Ohio, which we are a branch of, quickly made a COVID task force to deal with the upcoming threat to our facilities. As part of the leadership team, I was asked to participate in the task force. As most of our leadership is nursing, it was painfully obvious that Child Cares in Ohio were not taking this pandemic seriously. I personally contacted our local Health Department to seek advise and our local ODJFS to see if updates would be coming, nothing for child cares.

I joined groups like OAEYC and Groundwork pages to stay up to date on all changes, but nothing was being decided. This meant we were on our own. Working with our buildings Director of Nursing, Administrator, CEO, and President of the board, my team created a operational protocol, making standards much higher than suggested. We opened as a Pandemic Center on the first day, and have slowly added children to our now new daily capacity of 22 children. We had been taking temperatures weeks before asked, we have been maintaining cleaning logs that need signed off by staff, we have implemented a drop zone with “dirty” staff, and making room teams to stop cross contamination. We are running a top notch PANDEMIC CENTER.

This entire time, as I am laying off staff, trying to find funds to run this business, stressing about the right choices for staff, families, and children. The government has TURNED ITS BACK TO US. Child Care STAFF were not listed as essential workers for pandemic centers? So my staff can WATCH others children but are not good enough to make the list for their OWN children? Government funding went from: FREE FOR ALL ESSENTIAL WORKERS, FREE FOR POVERTY CUT OFF ON JFS 01259, to now FREE is ODJFS approved??? I had two families with us that DID make that cut off on JFS 01259, but when they submitted weeks later their application to ODJFS they did not qualify. Both families PULLED, with outstanding bills totally almost $1000 – we will never see that money! “FAIR” compensation IS NOT FAIR. We charge $155 a week for school age children….but we are getting $86.35 for that spot because we are a county in category 1.

Our median wage for teachers is $11.00 an hour. They are better off being unemployed right now than returning to work with that $600 bonus. I am outraged. As my team suffers, the children suffer, the families suffer…… My employees need compensated for this time….. I can barely afford to pay them their pay, let alone a “hero” or “front line” bonus – where am I going to get that money? While their counterparts are laid off bring home more money than they will ever see in their full time position.

The children are in a fragile mental health state at this time – we ARE THEIR SAFE PLACE. Why are we not allowing more children in so WE can protect them. I am not just talking about abuse….parents are struggling explaining what is going on right now. “We will die if we play with friends.” “There is no virus, it’s a lie.” “If I kiss grandma she will get sick. This needs educated teachers to help them work through this! What about my families that are calling me because they need to go back to work – and we are FULL!

You are making families choose teenagers and unlicensed home providers over CENTERS, with educated staff. I understand that there are so many parts to this pandemic crisis we are going through…….. but I feel Child Cares are getting punished right now, and eventually we won’t he around.

If you are a caregiver, a parent, a grandparent, or an employer struggling to get support for child care—share your story now.