When schools and nonessential businesses began to shut down across Washington State in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in mid-March, Tina McFadden knew it would be more important than ever that she be able to continue working. McFadden has run an in-home family child care program out of her home in the rural community of Raymond, Washington, for the past 23 years. She provides a valuable service to local families, caring mostly for the children of parents who work in local government positions and are considered essential workers during the outbreak.
McFadden knew that in the next several weeks, it would be critical that she remain able to operate her child care center. To do that, she needed to make sure she wouldn’t run out of basic essentials—but nearby stores had already sold out of most items and likely wouldn’t be restocked any time soon.
“It was already getting harder and harder to find the things we needed, like toilet paper and cleaning products,” said McFadden. “The nearest big box store is 80 miles away, and even they were already wiped out. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get those supplies.”
Just after the outbreak began in Washington, Child Care Aware (CCA) of Washington distributed a needs assessment survey to child care providers across the state, asking them to identify what supplies they would need in the coming weeks. CCA is a nonprofit that provides resources and coaching for child care providers, and its services are administered in Southwest Washington by ESD 112.
Dozens of child care providers responded to the survey, indicating they were concerned about their ability to keep necessary supplies stocked in order to continue operating. Items most in need were things like toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, bleach, food and milk.
Through its partnerships with vendors and retailers, CCA was able to locate and purchase enough supplies to begin meeting the most immediate needs identified by providers in the survey.
“We were able to find a source that had toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and bleach in stock,” said Marianna Ross, program manager for CCA of Washington. “We were able to place an initial order with some agency funds and then initiated a crowdfunding campaign through our website [to be able to keep buying supplies as they’re needed].”
The supplies were then shipped from the CCA network office in Tacoma to select locations in Southwest Washington. Although the ESD 112 office is closed to the public to support social distancing, most employees are still working remotely—including CCA coaches. When they found out about the need for supplies to be delivered to some of Southwest Washington’s most rural child care programs, several ESD 112 CCA coaches stepped up to help. They picked up the supplies and drove them to providers in need—sometimes driving several hours one way to deliver them.
“We want our early learning staff and programs to feel supported,” said Krys Carney, a CCA specialist with ESD 112. “There’s so much uncertainty right now, but one thing our child care programs can be certain of is that we’ll keep checking in with them.”
Child care providers, especially those in rural communities with fewer resources like McFadden, were beyond thankful for the extra help.
“Having [CCA] watching out for us and taking care of us is so helpful and means so much,” said McFadden. “We have to have these supplies in order to stay open because families are counting on us. I’m so grateful to CCA for making sure we have what we need to stay open.”
For providers who did not respond to the initial survey that CCA sent out, local CCA coaches are connecting with individual providers to find out what their needs are. CCA will continue to work to get critical supplies and resources to these providers so they can continue to remain open and operational, providing an essential service for the families of Washington.