The YMCA of Greater Houston is offering special “essential jobs” child care services across the region, announcing a new program beginning on Monday where children ages 1 to 12 years old can be cared for at each facility while their parents are working what is defined as “essential jobs,” including first responders, medical personnel and food industry and grocery store workers.

Curtis Lemieux, executive director of summer programs for the YMCA Greater Houston, said the program was a result of the YMCA’s desire to provide help to first responders as well as workers in essential jobs like the medical and grocery and food industries as the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic seems to worse by the day.

With school districts across the region shuttered for the foreseeable future, many parents are struggling to find childcare while doing “essential jobs” such as paramedics, police, grocery store staff, doctors, nurses and firefighters.

Lemieux said there are two age groupings for youth at the new program — age 12 months to 5 years old and a second grouping for ages 5 to 12 years old. The younger age group will be split between children age 12 months to 35 months old and then ages 3 to 5 years old.

According to a press release on the program, essential employees are defined as, “city or county staff responding to the crisis, first responders such as police, fire, EMS, medical personnel, food provision or distribution personnel (working at a food bank or grocery stores) and other organizations or businesses providing critical services to the community during the crisis.”

The program is open to those who meet the criteria and can provide proof of employment in an “essential” field, Lemieux added. The cost varies from $30 to $50 per day depending on which age grouping a child is placed in.

Roxanne Davis, community liasion for the two YMCAs in The Woodlands, said the cost of the program is, “very much a reduced fee,” from normal pricing, noting that the three meals and a snack are included and the hours of childcare available are longer than normally offered, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“Financial assistance is available,” Davis added.

Lemieux said YMCA officials reacted quickly to create the program and hope it is utilized as needed.

“The YMCA is looking to open as essential childcare spaces as needed to serve the gap that is in our community right now. Our main objective is that the youth of our essential personnel have a space to go to continue to get academic enrichment, to engage with programming and to have some outlets that our essential personnel can go to work knowing their kids are taken care of.”

The YMCA has a special landing page on its website where details of the program and qualifications needed are outlined with age group breakdowns of regional locations where the program is being offered and activities being offered. Lemieux said the page is updated daily with new Y locations that are just starting the program in their areas.

“We are accepting our younger youth into our early care centers as well for the essential personnel. There are some different age (groups) all the way through 12 years old,” he added.

The program includes meals, with breakfast, lunch and dinner for the children. There will be less than 50 people in total in each facility and regular cleanings and disinfectant work is being done. Social distancing will also be enforced at the sites, he said.

“We are following the guidelines from the CDC, we’re doing a one to nine ratio (teacher to student) and no more than 50 people in the building and small groups. We are also doing wellness screenings at the door, so everyone will have a wellness check to get into the program,” Lemieux explained. “The YMCA is a national movement and our colleagues in Seattle who have been dealing with this a couple of weeks longer than we have…they started doing this program. They saw the need and filled the need and it has been really successful there. We were able to utilize some of the strategies they had in Seattle and other parts of the United States.”

Lemieux said the program is similar to what YMCAs across the nation have done in various disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey. Because of the organization’s partnerships with various other charitable organizations and governmental groups, collaboration has been easier, he noted.

As for morale, Lemieux reported that YMCA staff across the Houston region are holding up well and staying focused as the situation changes regularly.

“People are doing OK. It is a tough situation, but our Y staff are all with us because of their drive to serve the community,” Lemieux added. “These are the places where YMCA professional staff can find a sense of community and keep learning…we are learning social distancing. We are used to being with people all the time, so technology (is helping connect). I think we are doing well all things considered.”

Of the two YMCAs in The Woodlands, Davis, said the Shadowbend Y in The Woodlands is the community’s designated “Essential Personnel Child Care Site,” and is located at 6145 Shadowbend Place in The Woodlands. Locally in The Woodlands, YMCA officials are working in conjunction with CHI St. Luke’s Health, Kelsey-Seybold and Houston Food Bank.

“The essential personnel community is so grateful for the services and support the YMCA is offering during this difficult time. Our staff are ready to welcome these children, with open hearts and provide them a safe, fun and nurturing environment to learn, grow and thrive,” Davis said. “As a non-profit organization, we depend on community support to continue to support those in need. For those who are YMCA members, we ask that you continue to support our work through your membership. For community member and businesses who would like to support our efforts, please reach out to our development team, scott.harper@ymcahouston.org.”

jeff.forward@chron.com

Original Article from: https://www.yourconroenews.com/neighborhood/woodlands/news/article/YMCAs-across-Houston-region-to-offer-essential-15151809.php