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COVID-19: What the state is now telling working parents, child care providers

Family and Social Services Administration urges caution as many families scramble
Posted at 11:33 AM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 21:54:39-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration issued new guidance Thursday to parents concerned about child care options in light of COVID-19 and related school closures.

FSSA, the state agency that regulates child care in Indiana, told RTV6 that children who are out of school due to possible contact with a positive case should not attend a large child care setting, but rather should practice social isolation and be at home.

“It is strongly recommended that caregivers for these children during this timeframe NOT be older than age 65 or have a chronic disease or be in an immunosuppressed state,” FSSA told RTV6 in a statement Thursday.

FSSA spokesperson Marni Lemons said this guidance only applies to families whose children have been exposed, either through attending school with a child that’s tested positive or other known exposure.

The state of Indiana hasn’t had many answers for working parents left in the lurch by school cancelations, including Avon Community schools, which is closed for two weeks and then on Spring Break for two weeks.

“I understand that there are going to be people that have critical jobs, and they need to go to their jobs, and they may now have three children who they can’t leave at home all day,” said Kris Box, Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner on Monday. “So, maybe the neighbor or someone else in the family can help to watch the children.”

Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney sent a list of questions on Monday to ISDH, the Governor’s office, the Hendricks County Health Department, Avon schools, and FSSA asking for further information on what working parents should do—including whether it’s wise to have grandparents watch children, given that the elderly are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Holcomb’s office did not respond to a list of questions emailed on Monday regarding the workforce, child care, and sick leave.

A reporter asked Governor Eric Holcomb this week whether he will encourage companies to ease sick leave policies in light of coronavirus and the impact on working parents.

“Employers need to be working with their employees,” said Holcomb. “Different businesses deal with different circumstances; some have a workforce that travels perpetually. Some never. Some are 2-3 person shops; some are large scale businesses.”

Holcomb’s office did not respond to a list of questions emailed on Monday regarding the workforce, child care, and sick leave.

As more schools look at closing or using e-learning amid COVID-19 concerns, more working parents in Indiana will likely be impacted and have tough choices to make.

RELATED | Avon parents figuring out child care in wake of coronavirus

Many parents have posted on Facebook groups seeking child care for their children.

Facebook posts are also popping from people offering up “cheap” childcare and babysitting services amid coronavirus concerns.

FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons said before people start up a day care, they should be aware of the law.

“Indiana requires that anyone who is caring for more than five children who are not related to them must be appropriately licensed,” said Lemons. “This rule exists to help protect the safety of children, to make sure that they have adequate supervision, that caregivers have passed all background checks and that they have received current and up-to-date training in all child care practices. We advise parents to keep this in mind when arranging care for their children.”

“Indiana requires that anyone who is caring for more than five children who are not related to them must be appropriately licensed,” said Lemons. “This rule exists to help protect the safety of children, to make sure that they have adequate supervision, that caregivers have passed all background checks and that they have received current and up-to-date training in all child care practices. We advise parents to keep this in mind when arranging care for their children.”

Families may search for licensed child care at www.ChildCareFinder.IN.gov [childcarefinder.in.gov].

FSSA also posted a set of frequently asked questions and guidance for child care providers on COVID-19, including encouraging them to make changes to how parents drop off and pick up their children.

“In order to be cautious about large group settings and spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19, child cares may want to consider implementing different drop off and pick up procedures,” read FSSA’s letter to child care providers. “These could include meeting families at the door with their children to prevent family members from walking through the child care, having families call when they are near to have children waiting near the front door to greet parents or other means that work for the individual child care program.”

Some child cares have already taken steps to increase deep cleaning and handwashing and limiting visitors.

“Schools may need to postpone or cancel trips that could expose students and staff to potential community spread of COVID-19,” FSSA said in its letter to providers.

Click here to read what FSSA is telling child care providers.