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Child Care Centers In Texas Struggle To Balance Need For Services With Safety Concerns

A man waits to pick up children at the Capital Metro Child Care and Early Learning Center on Friday.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
A man waits to pick up children at the Capital Metro Child Care and Early Learning Center on Friday.

The governor has closed all K-12 schools, restaurants, gyms and other public spaces where 10 or more people can gather in Texas to curb the spread of COVID-19 – but his guidance did not include child care centers.

Because of that, businesses across the state are deciding for themselves whether to stay open.

Cathy McHorse, the vice president of Success by 6 at the United Way for Greater Austin, estimates around 60% of child care centers are still open here.

McHorse oversees the strategic plan for early education in Travis County. She says her team is compiling data to see which child care centers are staying open in Austin and what their needs are.

“We have folks who work in grocery stores, pumping gas, as well as emergency responders,” she said. “So we do need child care, and we need to be able to ensure they have the supplies that can keep the environment as healthy as possible.”

She says child care centers have told her it’s hard to find cleaning supplies and to get essential groceries with limits in place at stores.

Stuart Dupuy owns a local franchise of College Nannies + Sitters + Tutors, which connects families with trained child care providers.

His company is currently working with Austin Regional Clinic to find child care for its health care workers. It will either send staff to an employee’s house or set up a popup care center at the hospital or clinic site. Austin Regional Clinic is paying for the service, so it's free for employees.

Dupuy says his company is working to create protocols so staff stay safe while caring for children.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to be working on, putting protocols in place around hygiene and social distancing,” he said. “How do you have social distancing with an infant when you’re changing their diaper? Hygiene is key.”

He says the company is getting guidance from hospitals and separating children into smaller groups to help avoid spread.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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