“I knew I had to say ‘yes!’”

How this Bolton emergency childcare provider helps frontline workers do their jobs.

May 20, 2020 | | Pandemic Journals

Melissa Cianfarani a registered early childhood educator and a YMCA Child and Family Development supervisor.

Melissa Cianfarani works at a Bolton daycare centre with the children of frontline and health care workers.

I’m a registered early childhood educator and a YMCA Child and Family Development supervisor and my usual workplace is the YMCA Child Care Centre on Queen Street in Bolton, with children up to and including four years of age. I usually also oversee two Bolton before- and after-school programs.

I’m still at the Bolton centre but we’re only delivering emergency childcare for Region of Peel frontline and health care workers. The centre normally operates 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but since April 6 we’ve been open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate schedules.

When I was asked to be part of this team, I knew I had to say “yes!” Assisting frontline and essential workers in my community is a wonderful feeling. I remember being a bit nervous to meet a new group of families on the first day and knew there might be tears from the children because their families are not able to accompany them into the centre.

When I went outside to pick up the first child, I saw huge smiles on the parent and child’s faces and it put my nerves at ease. Seeing the smiles each day is a constant reminder of why I’m doing this and why I love my job so much.

Safety is our priority. Each educator watches fewer children than normal to increase physical distancing. Children in the same family stay together instead of being assigned by age, and we also keep the same group of children together with the same staff.

Parents, guardians and visitors are not allowed inside. We have set up virtual tours of our centres for parents and distributed detailed staff bios to help parents feel comfortable. We have dedicated staff who clean and sanitize classrooms, toys, and all other touch points. All surfaces and toys that could not be easily cleaned were removed before we reopened.

Prior to starting each day, we screen staff, parents and children for symptoms of Covid-19. If anyone answers “Yes” to the screening questions or has a temperature 38 degrees or greater, they must consult with Peel Public Health to arrange for Covid-19 priority testing.

We don’t wear masks or gloves at all times because it is not recommended by Peel Public Health. Masks are only used during the screening process and if a staff or child falls ill during program time. Staff ensure that children are monitored for new illness throughout the day and that they are constantly hand washing.

The children have been busy creating posters, cards and books for our health care heroes. Our front windows are covered with drawings that thank frontline workers for their hard work and dedication. Some parents have also taken the children’s artwork to work to share with colleagues.

I am lucky to live in Bolton, so I’m close to my workplace. That makes this entire experience so special because I get to support my local community and that makes me feel good – especially in these tough times.  I am grateful to have a very helpful and understanding husband, too.

Frontline workers are making so many sacrifices to help us. This is my way of giving back to help support them.

As told to Tralee Pearce. This interview was condensed and edited.

About the Author More by Melissa Cianfarani

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