While many of us are being told to stay at home, essential workers have been asked to provide services to the general public to keep our society functioning.  Many of these essential workers have school-aged children.  With schools out, they are faced with finding safe and dependable childcare.  For the past two weeks, the YMCA of Springfield has been offering childcare to address  the needs of our first responders, medical professionals and essential personnel who must continue their work in this challenging time.

Providing this service has certainly come with some challenges. The YMCA is following the strict guidelines for emergency childcare established by the Centers for Disease Control, Illinois Department of Health and YUSA.  As parents drop off their children, they are met curbside by a YMCA employee.  Anyone who enters Kerasotes is asked to complete a health screening including having their temperature taken.

The day begins with dedicated homework time. When weather permits, there is outside playtime followed by quiet time for reading, arts and crafts, lunch, an occasional movie, gym play and exercise.  Art projects cannot go home with the kids. Plenty of pictures are taken and shared through a weekly newsletter provided by the program.  While the children are in the gym or outside having lunch, a thorough deep cleaning is done in areas the children were in earlier.  This includes washing and disinfecting toys, hard surfaces, and bathrooms. When the children leave for the day, this deep cleaning process is repeated.

Sarah Brewer, Association Youth Development Director, says, “We are being careful, and we are following all the guidelines, but we are really having fun too. We try to make this experience enjoyable for all. I am used to walking in the building and it be bustling with people.  It feels so empty and the silence can be hard to take. The place really comes to life when we put on the “Frozen” soundtrack.  It is then you can hear laughter and top-of-your-lungs singing.  It is just so refreshing and just makes us all so happy.” With all the extra steps we are taking, it is worth every minute.  Sarah added, “We are honored to provide this service to our community and I am grateful I have a staff who are willing to work.”

Effective April 1, all essential workers in health care, human services, essential government services, and essential infrastructure now qualify for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program. If you are interested in emergency childcare, click here.