Family child care centers to close March 23

GREATER WESTFIELD-For more than 18 years, Sarah DaSilva has seen ups and downs in the day care business, however, with Wednesday’s announcement by Gov. Charlie Baker requiring all early education centers and family child care to close, starting March 23 to “mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she was still “in shock.”

“Personally, it was a shock,” said DaSilva, owner of Country Cuddlers Family Daycare in Chester, adding, “one that I should have expected with how things are changing daily.”

On Tuesday, DaSilva had sent out a Facebook post for her clients on the state’s Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) guidelines and stressed the importance of all parents adhering to the strict regulations in place.

Parents of children at the Country Cuddlers Family Daycare in Chester will have to find new resources beginning March 23 since Governor Charlie Baker has mandated that family child care providers state-wide have to close in light of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (SARAH DASILVA PHOTO)

“Financially, it hurts,” said DaSilva. “My family relies on this income. As of right now, we have a tentative re-opening date of April 6.”

DaSilva said as a home day care provider, she doesn’t qualify for liability insurance coverage or unemployment.

“So we’re down to one income in this house,” she said.

As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the EEC also issued emergency procedures to “set forth a process for opening exempt emergency child care programs” during the COVID-19 outbreak to provide priority access for families of emergency personnel, medical staff, and others critical to confronting COVID-19.

DaSilva isn’t alone with businesses having to shutter its doors, including the YMCA of Greater Westfield closing its Y’s Kids and Pre-School from March 16-April 6, and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield closing from March 16-30 in response to school closures in the city.

In a letter to families, Andrea Allard, YMCA CEO, said on behalf of the board and staff, she appreciated the patience from everyone involved.

“In uncertain times like these, we must be there for one another,” said Allard. “The effects could be far reaching and, in response, we all need to think sensibly and empathetically. By following the latest trusted science and leading with our hearts, we will get through this together.”

William Parks, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, shared a similar sentiment in a letter to parents.

“The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield is committed to safety,” said Parks, adding that measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were underway to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

For Ellen M. Daniels, founder of the Growing Tree Learning Center in Westfield, she is confident that with everyone working together, the community will be stronger after this stressful time.

“The positive in all this will be families coming together,” said Daniels, adding, “this situation might change the whole world together. I see more family nights and dinners together – people actually sitting down and eating together. I see families reuniting.”

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