SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. — Many essential workers are faced with a difficult dilemma throughout the pandemic.
Their skills and services are desperately needed by the entire community. However, many are struggling to find child care.
The Emergency Child Care Initiative for Santa Barbara County is offering emergency daycare services for critical health care providers and first-responders during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“After the crisis broke out here in Santa Barbara, we realized that child care was one of the main needs of our community, especially for essential workers,” United Way of Santa Barbara County President and CEO Steve Ortiz said.
“We could see that parents were very concerned about what would happen with their children, child care expert and United Way project manager Eileen Monahan said. “We want to make sure that children have longterm consistent care and their parents are able to focus on their job.”
In response to this urgent need, the Audacious Foundation and Natalie Orfalea Foundation joined together to form the initiative.
This initiative will be administered through United Way of Santa Barbara County.
In less than a week since the program began, child care services have been expanded for Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Lompoc Community Hospital in Lompoc and Community Health Centers in Santa Maria.
“At the moment we have four facilities that our currently open,” Ortiz said. “They’re currently serving health care providers, hospitals in those communities and the essential workers in those communities.”
The service is also available to more than just those working in health care or emergency personal.
“Any grocery employee can participate if they are frontline,” Monahan said.
Child care providers are trained with COVID-19 safety procedures, which means implementing physical distancing between kids at their facilities.
“Being in a safe environment for these kids allows them to continue their normal social environment with their friends but at the proper distance with guidelines,” Ortiz said.
“The children are arranged in such a way so that there’s more space in between them,” Monahan said. “Group activities are maybe spaced out a little bit more, they might eat lunch farther apart from each other.”
The initiative is prioritizing that essential workers’ children are safely cared for with attention to their health, wellbeing and emotional needs.
“Many of them have parents who are in the medical field or first responders and they’re hearing lots of things, so it’s very concerning and worrying,” Monahan said. “We want to make sure that they’re in good stable environments so that they have the support they need.”
“Our goal again is to make sure that the essential workers in our community have the comfort that their kids are in a safe environment,” Ortiz concluded.
Employers of essential business workers may contact Eileen Monahan to request child care support at (805) 451-8720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Audacious Foundation and Natalie Orfalea Foundation invite other funders to join them in this critical, countywide effort. The Fund has begun with $500,000, but the needs are escalating quickly.
Contributions can be directed to the United Way. If you would like to contribute toward the Emergency Child Care Fund, please contact Steve Ortiz at email@example.com.
For more information, visit www.unitedwaysb.org.