SALISBURY, Md. – With more businesses reopening to the public in Maryland- more employees are headed back to work.
But as they return to their jobs, families are now faced with a new challenge: finding child care. “The parents need to go to work, the parents need to make money, and we need to be able to assist them,” said child care provider, Crystal Ritter. To help, Governor Larry Hogan revealed the Maryland State Department of Education’s Child Care Recovery Plan that expands family’s access to childcare. But the announcement has many child care facilities here on the shore concerned.
“I’m glad that we’re opening back up in phase one, however, I don’t think childcare is quite ready,” said Ritter.
In the plan the department says parents going back to work can “immediately” access an open essential personnel child care or school-age program. “Parents are told that the state is going to ensure that they have child care for the school-age children, however, we may not have that because we’ve already accepted EPCC children,” said Ritter. But child care providers tell 47 ABC they’re only allowed to have up to 8 kids in their facilities. Which doesn’t leave much room to take in the school-aged children that are now promised to have a place to go.
“I don’t know where they’re going to all go. They may have to make decisions about who gets to stay and who has to leave,” said the owner of Talbot Tots, Lynne Diefenderfer.
“How do we say I’m sorry, we can’t take your child right now you may have to go find elsewhere. And elsewhere doesn’t mean they got to a center because the centers are also at capacity,” said Ritter. And they say having to turn away children would just lead to bigger problems. “We have daycare providers trying to stay within the guidelines, doing what we’re supposed to do. But then you have people who are not licensed taking on five, six, eight children so they can help out,” said Ritter. Which is why they’re now asking state officials to reconsider their plan.
“I would like the governor and anyone that’s involved in MSDE to know that providers need help, we need to raise these numbers even if it’s just by two,” said Ritter.
47ABC did reach out to the Maryland State Department of Education for a comment regarding the concerns from child care providers here on the shore, but they have not responded. The state will extend the payment of childcare tuition for all pre-recovery phase essential personnel through June 7th, and starting June 8th, child care tuition will be paid by all parents directly to the provider. As the state slowly reopens during Stages 1 and 2, those who are eligible can find family and center-based child care programs by heading to the website here.