In the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy, our first priority at All Our Kin was to contact our family child care providers to see how they had fared. We found that they had experienced a wide range of loss. With the widespread power outages, many had to close their programs for at least one or two days, forfeiting crucial income. Parents whose providers closed also suffered, unable to go to work without available child care. Some providers had to evacuate, their homes incurring significant damage. Such damage impacts a provider twofold because her home is also where she runs her business, a space that must meet various health and safety standards in order to be safe for children. Other providers were more fortunate and were able to remain open throughout the week.
While the level of crisis experienced by providers varied, the stories that have since emerged about the role they played in the lives of children and families during and after the storm suggest a unity among their values and dedication. These stories stand as evidence of what we already know about the incredible impact that neighborhood-based child care can have in communities, especially in times of crisis.
During the hurricane and in the days that followed, family child care providers served as an indispensable, and reliable, resource for families. Parents knew that despite the weather, they could still depend on their family child care provider to be open as long as the power was on. With the schools closed, many parents were faced with a sudden and unexpected need for child care. Fortunately, they were able to reconnect with the provider that had cared for their child as an infant or toddler, who gladly took in the older child during the school closings so that parents could go to work.
Providers supplied more than child care, though. For nearly a week, the family child care providers we spoke with served as emergency relief centers for both the families of their current children and those from the past. Providers made dishes of food for families and sent them home with the children in their care. They opened their doors after hours so families could shower, stay warm, and have a meal. Whether open or closed, with power or without, their houses served as hubs of information and strength, places for families in a variety of circumstances to recharge, connect with one another, and figure out ways to get through the volatile conditions without everything falling apart.
The networks that family child care providers create and sustain in our communities are vital in the lives of children and families. We are incredibly proud of the generosity, commitment, and love that family child care providers showed and continue to show in the wake of the storm. To these providers, and to all the first responders and volunteers helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, All Our Kin extends our sincere thanks.