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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Day Care Closures Add New Level Of Stress For Working Families

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Kelly Blanchat and her husband have worked from home while caring for their 10-month-old daughter for less than a week. But she says it feels like it’s been a lot longer. Many day cares have been closed in New Haven, Connecticut. Daycares that serve the children of health care workers are still allowed.

“Her day care is officially closed now,” Blanchat says. “And at 10-months-old, she’s very clingy and she still needs us for everything…So every three hours, she needs a bottle. Every three hours, she needs a nap. And then everything in between, she needs attention.”

Kelly tries to keep an eye on her daughter from the couch or the dining room table.

“While trying to work from home, our eyes just can’t be on her all the time. And she’s discovered the fireplace, which she licked the other day [laughs].”

“At some point you have to say that’s funny, she’s licking the fireplace,” says Leah Booth with the Yale Child Study Center. “You say to yourself, I can keep my child safe, and you can try to install some sort of routine into the household.”

Booth helps parents of school-age kids create schedules to fill their children’s days with productive activities. For example: 10 a.m. is reading. 11 a.m. is indoor hopscotch.

“What parents can do is sit with kids each day and according to the child’s development level, work in a collaborative way with the child to come up with a plan of events for the day,” Booth says.

She says parents shouldn’t try to replicate school, but consistency is important. Kids are likely to be confused by changes brought on by the coronavirus.

“These are strange days indeed,” Booth says. “And no one – no child, no parent – expected that life as we knew it was going to be upheaved pretty much overnight.”

Not all parents can work remotely or afford day care or babysitters. Jodi Baloga is with Family Centered Services of Connecticut.

“Many of our families are in the health care fields,” she says. “And they don’t have the ability to work from home. They are having to go into work, potentially exposing themselves to illness.”

Baloga says some parents who are still working don’t have many child care options.

“Many of them are looking to their social supports and seeing if there might be a family member who can help share child care with them,” she says.

Child care can take on a new level of stress for parents who’ve found themselves out of work entirely. Jaimee Smith-Solomon’s restaurant closed to all but carryout and curbside dining, along with other bars and restaurants in Connecticut. She’s now at home caring for her 3-year-old son.

“We have no work, we have no health insurance. We’re kind of at a limit of how we’re going to pay our bills,” she says. On top of that, her son is now sick.

“So now we’re just doing whatever we can to stave it off,” she says. “Hopefully it’s not something more serious.”

Smith-Solomon says she’s spent the past week calling credit card and mortgage companies to find out what kind of bill relief they could offer.

“We’re not the only people going through it,” she says. “Most of us are worried about where we’re going to be financially. So we’re hoping for some sort of monetary relief from the government. And hopefully, maybe we take a better look at health care for people.”

Smith-Solomon says the scariest part is not knowing how long it will last.

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