childcare

When Arizona schools shut down in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Tatiana Laimit, a nurse in Phoenix, knew she needed a backup plan. Laimit is a single mother of a 6-year-old girl and had recently relocated to the area. She didn't have any friends or family nearby to ask for help.

It was past 8 on a Friday night when she shot off an email to her local YMCA to ask if they were providing emergency care for the children of front-line workers. "And immediately [someone] responded and let me know, 'Yes.' "

The Osage Nation will close their 41-year-old Head Start program at the end of June due to budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said the Nation could face a $16 million budget shortfall after casinos were closed for two months.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, St. Luke’s Children’s Center in Oklahoma City got a terrifying call from health officials. The virus was in their facility. StateImpact’s Robby Korth takes you inside St. Luke’s to see how child care providers are battling the pandemic.

A photo of a child playing with car toys.
Sandy Millar / Unsplash

Childcare centers across Oklahoma are slowly starting to reopen after the coronavirus forced many to close.

More than 650 out of almost 3,000 childcare centers statewide are temporarily closed because of challenges created by the coronavirus.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman says those shuttered centers could serve as many as 35,000 children.

A photo of a child playing with car toys.
Sandy Millar / Unsplash

Despite pleas from the state to stay open, 747 of Oklahoma's 3,000 childcare centers have shuttered because of coronavirus fears. They have capacity for almost 40,000 children.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman says 25 previously closed childcare centers have re-opened and that the state will continue providing resources to keep those still operating from closing.

Childcare centers, like Wovenlife in Oklahoma City, are vital. That center’s executive director David Wood says they’ve gone from seeing 80 children a day to about 20.

Child care providers around the country have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with many facing closure even as others struggle to stay open.

At least 12 states have shuttered all child care except for essential workers, according to The Hunt Institute, an education nonprofit. In California, the decision is up to each provider, who must balance the needs of families with the health and safety of workers and children.

Following a confirmed infection related to an Oklahoma childcare facility, Oklahoma’s State Department of Health issued new guidance on Thursday that will limit public access and bar sick children from the state’s childcare centers.

Under the new guidelines, parents are required to drop their children off at the door of the facility where their temperature will be taken before entry. Anyone with a fever above 100.4 degrees, symptoms of a respiratory infection like a cough or has come into contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last two weeks will not be allowed inside.

Though Oklahoma schools are closed for weeks and businesses are closing their doors, the state’s Department of Human Services is asking childcare centers to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department’s director Justin Brown says in a letter to childcare professionals, it’s vital that childcare centers stay open to care for the children of medical workers and other first responders. Brown also recommends that childcare centers take basic steps to reduce spread.

When Lesley Del Rio goes to the library to do her college math homework, she often has a study buddy: her precocious 8-year-old son, Leo.

Del Rio is working on her associate degree; Leo is working on third grade.

And Del Rio is not alone: More than 1 in 5 college students in the U.S. are raising kids. That's more than 4 million undergraduates, and they are disproportionately women and people of color. Of those students, more than half will leave school without getting a degree.

In the midst of a presidential budget proposal destined to generate controversy for its expected drastic spending cuts, White House senior adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump wants to have a conversation about increasing the availability and affordability of child care.

NPR has learned that the 2020 White House budget set to be released Monday will call for increased spending on child care and propose an initiative to address shortages.

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