Dear Café au Play child care parents,
Sadly, we decided to move out of our Smiley space. We have a business willing to use it for a year, and we can move back there when it is safer to gather.
How safe is safe enough? For Liza and Jane, who both live with immune-compromised folks, the “safer at home” will continue to be true for some time. That does not mean we could not consider hiring someone to fill in, but our thinking has been that continuing business as usual in our space is not a responsible choice until there is a vaccine, or a higher level of “herd immunity”, allowing young children to gather encourages virus sharing. CDC guidelines for child care settings require a mask on children over 2, and to encourage them to distance…they don’t include younger children because they know how impossible that would be. Many centers will be requiring parents to drop off children outside.
So we have decided to work on models of use that can work during the coming transition months. The fact is, many people are positive for the virus but show no symptoms, so taking a temperature as children/parents arrive is not enough. For families who have had the virus, little is clear about immunity—both whether it exists and for how long. This will really limit what we can do, so our plan is to give up our space and reopen after a year or longer when more is understood.
I have been reading about child care and Covid, and one author suggests that both early child care and elder care will have to evolve, as the current large group models only facilitate risk. So here is an alternative idea for families seeking child care--or just connection, I’m calling it:
Clan care: every family out there may have differing beliefs or comfort tolerance for behaviors that could expose them to viral infection. Yet months of isolation with young children while trying to work seems equally impossible! So the idea is to find a small group of parents/children that would be your “circle of safety” group. Whether you want to trade some child care or do a nanny share, that could be one way of reducing your risk. Our old model of letting parents drop in for child care, accepting different children each week would not work; but letting self-selected small groups use the space on a regular basis, with sanitation between groups, could potentially work. You would be in control of who else is in our space with you and your children. To keep a drop in charge affordable, we are moving to a free play space that we are developing below Christ the King. The space will not open until the fall, since families can gather safely outside for the coming months.
The Community Treehouse in Bayfield, which is modeled after Cafe au Play but does not pay rent, will reopen. They will sign up self selected groups of up to ten (parents and children) for playtime in their amazing space. So form your Clan!
Here are things you would want to consider with that model:
· The level of safety in your circle or clan is limited. What any one group member does, e.g. goes to the store without a mask, or works outside the home, increases the risk level for the entire group. That is why each “clan” would need to agree on their groups’ risk tolerance.
· The freedom to mingle without masks within your clan is a great antidote to loneliness, and children do need to learn facial expressions and develop social skills through play with other children. By managing the level of risk, this freedom can be enjoyed without the unease of less intentional contact.
· A higher level of intimacy and community can develop with a closed group. I have seen this in therapy groups in my decades of social work experience, and also experienced it in my parent cooperative day care. I started the coop in Chicago when my oldest was 2; ten families shared a child care leader, and each parent volunteered one half day per week. This was affordable child care, and getting to know each other and our children deeply was both a challenge and a joy.
· A terrific platform to help you self-organize a cooperative is called Komae, check out this page: https://www.mykomae.com/babysitting-co-op-101-why-you-should-swap-sits-with-friends/#
If you choose to organize a clan or group, please let Liza know if using the Café space regularly as part of your plan would be desirable. Our Smiley space is closed, but we will be opening a parent lounge/play space this fall. And the Community Treehouse in Bayfield will reopen this summer, and is scheduling “clan” groups based on this idea. We are curious to hear if you like this concept and are trying it!
If you do not have contact info for other families with similar age children, let Liza know and she will do her best to connect you. Some of our parents are walking in pairs with strollers up on the Ft Lewis campus where it is easy to maintain the six foot distance.
We will do our best to create the greatest benefit possible for our families. Thank you for reading and write back with your questions, suggestions or if you need referral to any community resources. You are not alone!
Many air hugs for now,
Liza Tregillus,MSW Co-founder