Working parents consider childcare, alternative options to help kids with remote learning

Working parents across Washington face difficult decisions getting ready for the start of the school year. The biggest concern for some is who will teach their child remote learning while parents are on the job.

Alyssa Watson has a four-year-old daughter in childcare. It’s possible her seven-year-old son may be joining his little sister.

“There’s been a lot of serious conversations lately about financially this is doable—is this the decision that we want to make?” said Watson.

Watson said she has seen growth in her daughter and other kids at their childcare, but she noticed a change in her son. He was learning from home under grandma’s supervision as schools were closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel like the social development he’s definitely lacking on. We’ve noticed some things recently in his actions and his behavior,” said Watson.

Now the family is considering putting their son back in childcare so he can have some form of the classroom setting as he heads into second-grade learning remotely. However, weighing the option has expensive challenges.

“Financially, do we pay to put them back in childcare, which it’s a large payment. Or do one of us quit our job, which is also a large amount of money that is loss of income. The decisions are hard,” said Watson.

These are hard decisions so many working parents are trying to figure out as their kids get ready for distance learning. Cheryl Guilliatt King, the owner of Cheryl’s Childcare in Tukwila, said her program will be busy this fall semester. All of her school-age kids who were expected to be back in a classroom will now be at her childcare full-time.

“We have some kids that get here really early. My first one gets here at 4:30 and my other ones stroll in 5:30 and 6:00. So, my school-age kids that get here by 6:00, I start them on their program,” said King.

As families struggle to make ends meet after being impacted by the pandemic, sending their kids back to childcare doesn’t fit the budget. Child Care Aware of Washington said it offers free help finding providers that best fit a family’s budget.

The agency also assists in finding alternative options like local virtual play and learn groups. A representative said the virtual groups help children learn social and emotional skills while distance learning.

Child Care Aware said more financial support is also available for those families interested in childcare. This includes subsidy programs like Working Connections Child Care, Head Start and ECEAP. The programs offer a variety of assistance for students of low-income families, even help for full time college students.

Child Care Aware also has resources available for providers expecting to care for more school-age children. These resources include training for remote learning support and sanitizing materials.

Whatever fits the budget, Watson said it won’t be an easy choice.

“It’s a lot of stress for us as parents. Big decisions in the next couple weeks for sure,” said Watson.

Child Care Aware of Washington has more information to get connected to providers and resources on its website.