This series profiles the experiences of RECEs as they navigate the reopening of child care centres.
We interviewed Lisa Belton RECE, a Program Coordinator with Andrew Fleck Children’s Services (AFCS) in Ottawa. AFCS had to temporarily close its centre at the start of the pandemic and reopened June 17 at a reduced capacity.
Q: In what ways did COVID-19 initially affect your professional role, relationships and practice setting?
A: I transitioned from working in the centre to supporting children and families online. These times really ingrained in me the importance of well-being and having meaningful connections. We were able to maintain collaborative relationships through Storypark and Zoom, providing resources to parents. We were also able to do live ‘circles’ with the children via Zoom. It was exciting to see the infants’ smiles when they saw us and each other.
Q: How is AFCS communicating the new protocols in place?
A: My organization has been great with communicating the new protocols to staff and families. We delivered f staff training, covering a review of the pandemic plan, taking on and off personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as a review of the Ontario Public Health and Ministry of Education documents. We also shared similar information at a parents’ meeting so they knew what to expect. I’ve found parents to be very supportive. They’re very forthcoming with information and accepting of whatever it is they’re being asked to do or comply with.
Q: How are you navigating the reopening of child care?
A: Our approach is one day at a time. AFCS is ensuring that everyone is comfortable asking questions and respecting varying comfort levels. It’s also been important to make sure that staff are feeling supported and have opportunities for communication.
Q: Can you share some examples of what’s different?
A: We had some new enrolments in our infant program while we were closed. These children have started since we re-opened, but program integration now looks very different. For example, parents are no longer able to spend the first half of the day with their child in the program. Another example is the challenge of supply staff not being able to work in different programs. Scheduling has become tough, compounded by the need for increased staffing to support the morning screening and at the end of the day when the children are taken home by their parents.
Q: What are you finding most challenging about returning to the learning environment?
A: The biggest challenge is not allowing parents into the centre. Staff and parents are really missing that daily connection and information sharing. Our infant program is particularly affected. It’s prompted us to find new ways to communicate with parents, such as through daily take-home sheets and remaining responsive and flexible.
Q: Final thoughts?
A: I had the opportunity to work in emergency child care and can say that, so far, there have been no surprises. Overall, I’m feeling really good about child care – children are not only safe, but they’re also having fun.