As childcare centers across the country work on reopening, the way they operate is changing. Many are following CDC recommendations, and some require masks for kids age three and up. They’re increasing cleaning schedules, changing how drop-off and pickup works, and adding new things to their routine, like temperature checks. They’re also limiting class size to encourage social distancing.
Childcare centers want parents to feel comfortable bringing their kids back — but are these measures enough? And can childcare centers survive with lower enrollment, especially after taking a huge financial hit in the last couple months of the pandemic?
We still don’t have answers to those questions. But one thing is for certain: the childcare industry is changing, drastically. And as many parents — myself included — weigh their options, many are changing where they get their childcare.
Childcare Needs to Be Flexible and Affordable as the Pandemic Continues
There’s no question that early education is important. Not only for educational purposes but socialization too. As families continue to keep their circles small, many are changing who they turn to for childcare help.
Rather than returning to group centers — despite the changes being made there — many parents are opting for in-home centers or starting nanny sharing. Or they’ve created a trusted circle of neighbors and friends. In other words, they’re continuing to keep their “exposure circle” small.
But that’s not the only reason for this change. Smaller care-giving circles often means more flexibility in terms of when kids are watched, and how often. In many cases, it’s also a lot more affordable.
For childcare centers to keep up with the changes, they’re going to need to make even more adjustments to what they offer to parents. Parents now, more than ever, need something flexible — and not always Monday through Friday. As Care.com CEO Tim Allen told Yahoo Lifestyle:
You now have a disruptive workforce where people are working from home now and potentially are working from home for a longer period of time, or have flexibility to work from home. And that will also disrupt the childcare ecosystem because you no longer need a 9-to-5, five-day-a-week center. You need a nanny who you trust and who’s reliable and who’s affordable who can come in Tuesdays, Thursdays and part of Friday, and that dynamic I think is going to continue on past COVID and a vaccine.
Can the group childcare industry change to meet the demands of what parents are looking for right now? And stay afloat financially? That remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain: now, more than ever, this moment in time highlights how many parents need flexible, creative, and affordable options when it comes to childcare.