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My Turn, Amy Brown: Child care resources available during COVID-19

By Amy Brown

This week and in the weeks to come, early childhood educators and workers across the country will go into early childhood learning centers, preschools and schools where they will interact with and care for children of essential workers who could be exposed to COVID-19.

They will not necessarily be given face masks or protective clothing. They may not get free coffee, half price pizza or special shopping hours. 

They will perform their jobs in ways they have never done before, while caring for the children of essential workers that don’t have the option to work from home. They will do this with a smile on their faces so that the children in their care don’t know how scared they are — scared for all children, scared for the community and scared of being responsible for taking the virus home to loved ones. 

Thank you to Rowan County early childhood professionals, who have huge hearts and are heading into a child care center or preschool this week to keep it running. They are doing it so that our amazing health care industry and essential workers can take care of the sick and vulnerable, our necessary stores can stay open and so-critical services can continue. You too, my friends, are heroes and you should be acknowledged for also being on the front lines during this crisis! 

With all of that being said, I want to bring attention to critical child care related services and programs that are available during this time of need:

• If you are a parent who provides necessary services to or cares for members of our community and your child care has fallen through or is unavailable because of COVID-19-related closures, please call 1-888-600-1685. At this time, representatives are available to assist you on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Child care options are available for infants up to children age 12. 

• Additionally, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, through the N.C. Division of Child Development and Early Education, have launched a COVID-19 Financial Assistance for Emergency Child Care Fund. The application for this funding can be found on the NC Department of Health and Human Services website at the following link: ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/child-care. Eligibility requirements and other helpful child care related information can also be found there.

• Finally, the Smart Start network has been designated by the state to serve as the liaison and advocate for the child care community and assist them in locating critical resources for children in their care. While some of our Rowan County child care centers and family child care homes have had no choice but to close during this crisis, others have worked to remain open and are in need of essential items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, anti-bacterial soap and thermometers that are critical in caring for children. If you or someone you know is able to provide any of these items, please contact Jamie Guagliano, Smart Start Rowan’s Early Care and Education Program lead, at jguagliano@smartstartrowan.org or 704-630-9085.

As our community continues to adjust to this “new normal” that COVID-19 is causing around us, please know that Smart Start Rowan is still here to serve the children and families of Rowan County. We are working remotely and are available by email, telephone or Facebook messenger. Call on us and we will be honored to help in any way that we can.

Stay well everyone and please remember to thank all of our heroes for their service, including our community’s early childhood professionals!

Amy Brown is executive director of Smart Start Rowan, located at 1329 Jake Alexander Blvd. S. The agency can be reached at 704-630-9085.

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