Joanna Cline of Novi and her 6-year-old triplets, Steven, Amaya and Sammy.
Joanna Cline of Novi and her 6-year-old triplets, Steven, Amaya and Sammy. (Photo courtesy of Joanna Cline)

For the limited options that are available, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what’s safe.

It’s a catch-22 — COVID-19 style — for parents with young children. How do they go back to work as Michigan’s stay-at-home order lifts and businesses, workplaces and restaurants re-open without someone to care for their children?

There’s no easy answer. Many camps, preschools and day care facilities remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. For the limited options that are available, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what’s safe. Having a babysitter come into the house is also a concern for many.

“The pandemic has created a tremendous challenge [for parents],” says Joanna Cline of Novi.

She would know. She is a mother of 6-year-old triplets, two boys and a girl, who works in the childcare business. Cline is vice president of marketing and customer experience for the Novi-based Learning Care Group, the second largest childcare provider in the United States with 44 locations in Michigan and 900+ across the country.

Parents struggle with childcare as Michigan reopens

Several of their local facilities are open with strict guidelines in place including temperature screenings on arrival, rigorous cleaning and hand washing and masks required for staff.

“I have been fortunate to be able to work from home during the crisis,” she says. “Learning Care Group is evaluating plans to reopen our Novi office and I do hope to work on-site again.”

But Cline herself still does not know what she’ll do. The triplets were enrolled in session 1 of day camp at the JCC, which has been canceled. She says the family has some “trusted caregivers.” They are considering their options and hoping to make arrangements that are meaningful for the children so they’re not “just sitting around.”

For the JCC’s part, Assistant Executive Director Judy Loebl says they’re watching the governor’s guidelines closely for what’s possible.

“We’re looking at whether we feel we can do things safely because, first and foremost, we’re concerned about the health and safety of our staff and patrons,” Loebl said. “It’s heartbreaking because we know families need help. Everything is being talked about and everything is changing day by day.”

Parents struggle with childcare as Michigan reopens
Lauren Taylor of Miss Lauren’s Day Care in front of her empty day care room.

Grandparents to the Rescue

Rose Garber of Bloomfield Hills is a licensed master social worker who has been working from home part-time since the pandemic began. Her husband, Vadim, a web developer for Dominos Headquarters, also works from home. But they still need help with their 13-month-old son, Isaac, who requires constant attention. The daycare he normally attends remains closed.

“I’ll be working from home indefinitely using telehealth,” Garber says. “My parents have been lifesavers. On the days I work, my mom comes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and my dad helps out as well. I wouldn’t be able to work without them. I tell them ‘thank you’ every day.”

She says her parents “keep Isaac from running down the hall and banging on the door” when she’s with clients. Debra and Richard Partrich of Bloomfield Hills, a retired property manager and an attorney, seem to relish their new role managing feeding, naptime, play time and more.

“We had a choice. We could be locked down and make this the worst time and be miserable — or we could make it the best of times,” Richard Partrich says. “[Taking care of Isaac] was a great opportunity. We’re having a blast with him. We would never had had this opportunity otherwise.”

Parents struggle with childcare as Michigan reopens
Debra and Richard Partrich with their grandson, Isaac Courtesy of Rose Garber

In West Bloomfield, Lauren Taylor is preparing to reopen her licensed family daycare, Miss Lauren’s, in the next few weeks. Her in-home business remained open at first to help essential workers but closed as more people began working from home. She typically cares for six children each day, ages 3 months to 3 years, and has been in business for 31 years.
“It’s a tough situation,” she says. “I’ve heard from some parents that one parent has decided not to go back to work right now. And then I have some parents who are just scrambling.”

When she does reopen, Taylor will be following CDC guidelines for sanitizing, disinfecting and handwashing. Parents will no longer be permitted inside the house. Drop off times will be staggered. There will be a checklist for families to fill out and temperatures will be taken at the door. Cots have been spaced six feet apart.

“Still, there are families that are not so ready to return to daycare because there’s fear. There’s so much uncertainty,” she says. “I feel pretty confident that I’m going to be able to maintain the proper protocols because we’re a small group.”

The daily dilemma of what to do is not likely to end anytime soon. The upcoming school year is a big question mark as well.

“I know personally there are many concerns about what school will look like this fall,” Cline, the mother of triplets, said. “If children are attending on alternate schedules, I know I’ll certainly need care for my children.”

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