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More details coming on expanding child care in Oregon

Parents and daycare providers all over Oregon are awaiting more details on Governor Kate Brown’s announcement that childcare options will begin expanding next week.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Parents and daycare providers all over Oregon are anxiously awaiting more details on Governor Kate Brown’s announcement that childcare options will begin expanding next week.

“For the last six weeks there’s been nothing,” said Stephanie Michael.

When she says nothing, she’s talking about her and her husband’s employment

“Neither of us has really had an income and it’s getting a little scary,” said Michael.

“And to have three little kids home all the time,” Michael added.

She works as a house cleaner while her husband is in construction. She’s mom to three kids: 6-year-old Gracelyn, 5-year-old Elijah, and Chloe who’s 2. In March they had to stop going to their daycare because of strict rules limiting the number of kids allowed at child care facilities.

Credit: Stephanie Michael
Stephanie Michael with her kids

On Thursday, Michael heard the news that child care throughout Oregon would be expanding.

“It makes me happy because anything talked about that isn’t child care isn’t the first step. Child care has to be the first step,” said Michael.

But she’s also got questions and wants to make sure her kids are able to go back to the daycare they’re familiar with, not another facility.

“We’re not gonna be satisfied with any childcare,” she said.

Credit: Stephanie Michael

Before the pandemic, Michael’s kids went to Little Meadows Preschool, an in-home daycare run by Nichole Garcia and her husband. They had to whittle down the number of kids back in March.

“We had to drop half of our families,” said Garcia.

Like Michael, Garcia also had questions about the state’s plans to expand child care.

She wonders if there will be added sanitation and health regulations or additional staff.

“Like how many adults per kid?” Garcia asked.

The uncertainty is on top of frustration that’s already there.

“It’s just really hard when we’re working on less income and I feel like we’re letting families down that need us right now,” said Garcia.

She said it's been frustrating trying to operate during the pandemic. Child care facilities need to make sure things stay clean and that means lots of sanitation, and products like gloves and cleaners to help with that.

“Where am I supposed to get those products now. Half my income. They [regulations] weren’t thought through I don’t think,” Garcia said.

While there are programs that help daycare providers get free cleaning supplies, she said that help has been slow.

When asked specifically about the changes to child care in the state, Charles Boyle, deputy communications director for the governor’s office, said in an e-mail that the governor is planning to announce health and safety guidelines regarding child car around the state next week.

“The updated guidelines will continue to address child care in all parts of the state, and facilities will continue to be eligible to provide emergency child care. There will be greater flexibility for families to use and access child care across the state as soon as May 15. This guidance is separate from the county-by-county application process, and is pursuant to authorization by the Early Learning Division,” said Boyle.

Credit: Stephanie Michael
Michael's son, Elijah

In the meantime, Michael hopes her kids get to go back to Little Meadows Preschool soon, especially if work starts picking up.

“They got so much at Nichole’s all the time,” Michael said. “Even if I have lots of work, if I don’t have child care, I can’t go."

So now, she as well as other parents and daycare providers across Oregon will wait to hear more specifics next week on how childcare will be expanded throughout Oregon.