Rockland Child Care News
October-December 2020
Child Care in the Age of Coronavirus:
How programs continue to adapt
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered every aspect of child care, from parents’ needs to children’s play. Most providers shut down in mid-March and faced regulatory hurdles and added costs as they planned reopenings.

How have providers changed to meet safety regulations and parents’ needs? How have the children adapted?

Child Care Resources of Rockland talked with longtime Rockland providers -- West Street Child Care Learning Center in Spring Valley, Myria Jean-Gilles Day Care, Inc. in Nyack, and Peace Through Play Nursery School in Chestnut Ridge -- to find out.
Myria Jean-Gilles Day Care, Inc, a home-based program, remained open, first with just two children. Before the March stay-home orders, the Nyack day care was at full capacity, with 12 full-time children and four who attended after school. By mid-September, the program was taking care of six children.

West Street, a Head Start program, reopened September 9. While the center usually enrolls about 132 children ages 18 months to 5 years, 57 were attending in September. 

Peace Through Play opened September 14. The age 3-5 preschool has space for 24 children, but had enrolled 14 in September, a few of them kindergartners who attend when not involved in their schools’ virtual lessons. 

Here’s how three very different programs have weathered the pandemic.

How did you handle the spring, when most everything closed down, including many non-essential work places?

Myria kept taking care of two children in her home-based program because their essential worker parents needed that support. During the summer, she attempted to bring children back to her home, but it wasn’t as successful as she had hoped. Even though it was a financial challenge to remain open, Myria wanted to support the families who needed her. 

By June, families were contacting Alan Berger, director of Peace Through Play, asking when he could reopen. After studying the feasibility and checking with CCRR and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), Alan opened a small summer camp program for six weeks.

Meanwhile, Peace Through Play continued weekly check-ins with ZOOM sessions that Alan launched after the mid-March shutdown. Each session was about a half hour and would include reading a story and some songs for the children, ages 3-5. 

Diane Rivera, executive director at West Street, said there was no way to reopen for the summer. But they found ways to keep connections.

West Street offered weekly virtual classes for families, with circle time and story time. The virtual connections were short -- usually just 20 minutes, to meet the attention spans of children ages 18 months to 5 years. The sessions have continued into September for about a dozen children who haven’t yet physically returned. 

“There was no compensation,” Diane said for the teachers who would connect with the little ones. “They just knew it was important.” 

Foster Grandparents, a program that links adults 55 and over with a variety of Rockland County child care programs, had been a longtime success at West Street. “We were very close to our Foster Grandparents,” Diane said. The seniors often read to or sing songs with the little ones, offering important pre-literacy learning opportunities.

Teachers have facilitated some calls between the children and their Foster Grandparents. To further pre-literacy education, the center was working on a pen pal program, with the “grandparents” writing letters to the children. 

Myria's program offered a free 30-minute virtual connection into her classroom several days a week for those children at home. 
What were some of the hurdles to reopening?
For Diane Rivera, whose center serves low-income families, the preparation costs posed significant challenges. She cobbled together resources through various grants and loans, from $35,000 in COVID grant funding through Head Start, to various SBA grants and loans through local banks, including Key Bank, Apple Bank, and People’s Bank.

With no tuition coming in but continued operational costs, Diane, Myria, and Alan tapped loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which was administered through the Small Business Administration. The funds can help cover wages for displaced workers, and operational costs like utilities. Myria was able to keep her one assistant employed.
Alan and his entire staff ended up on unemployment. Diane at first furloughed some staff but ended up laying off seven workers. She said West Street arranged to have a full-time maintenance worker to be on the premises during school and teachers pitch in with constant cleaning. “Everybody picks up a piece,” Rivera said.
Alan said he struggled to cobble together enough staff after several employees couldn’t return full time because of their own family commitments. “I’m just piecing it together,” he said.
How did CCRR help?
Alan, Myria, and Diane said they relied on CCRR nurse Kristin G. Saunders, RN, BSN, throughout the process. “Kristen Saunders helped me in gathering all the documents needed to open,” Alan said. 
Kristin has offered extensive trainings for child care providers and continues to offer support.
Myria said CCRR helped her tap CARES Act funding to remain open and aid essential worker families, then helped her apply for CARES 2 so she could purchase new tables fit with clear dividers and other equipment to adapt to important safety regulations. She said she received help navigating CARES funding from Karen Ross, CCRR’s Director of Family, Community, and Operations services, and Christina Espindola, CCRR’s Resource and Referral Coordinator.
Teresa Ortega, CCRR’s Child and Adult Care Food Program Coordinator, also helped ensure Myria could secure food cost reimbursement, especially needed amid the rising costs and lost tuition amid the pandemic. "Teresa is very insightful and has been a tremendous help."
Diane and Alan said Elaine Trotta, CCRR’s Director of Program Standards and Support Services, helped with interpreting any new regulations.
West Street Education Coordinator Naomi Paul has participated in CCRR’s weekly ZOOM sessions for providers. The discussions allow program leaders to share ideas and discuss concerns. Myria also joined in the ZOOM meetings, which she said provided her the opportunity to connect with other home-based providers, to vent, to learn, and to share ideas.
Alan said he tapped CCRR’s Job Bank when he struggled to find staff. 
Diane said she continued to refer parents whose income levels didn’t fit their program to CCRR to find appropriate child care. “There’s a lot of child care out there, but it’s not quality child care.” She said that CCRR has remained a key support system through the pandemic. “It’s so valuable.” 
Can you give an example of a creative solution that helped your program adapt to COVID-19 safety protocols? 
At West Street, parents were used to coming in the Main Street entrance with their children and taking them to their classrooms. A single entrance would create an unsafe bottleneck and delays. Because the building’s occupancy and children’s exposure had to be limited, West Street came up with alternate entrances for children, organized by their age and classroom location. Now, parents bring their children to drop off either at the front door on Main St., or through a back entrance by the play area that abuts Memorial Park. 
The kiosks use a metal stand with a tablet-size device that scans a person’s temperature. Wooden steps sit near the base so even the smallest student can reach the no-contact thermometer to be scanned.
But the safety measure came at a cost: With two entrance points, the program had to purchase two temperature kiosks, which cost $2,500 each.
Myria wrote up “Myria’s Regulations” and distributed it to all the parents so the rules are clear but still presented in a friendly manner.
Children at the Nyack home program would often bring favorite toys for “Show and Tell,” but COVID-19 regulations wouldn’t allow such sharing. So Jean-Gilles started a new sharing-based activity -- parents contribute newly purchased toys to be placed in a basket; each child chooses a toy then describes their new toy to the other children. An apple hunt in the backyard will replace the program's annual outing to an orchard.
Peace Through Play is located in a converted house that offers a homey vibe but some challenges to group activities in a pandemic world. But the property is expansive, with a large play yard and 2.5 acres of woods with walking paths. With the CDC recommending outdoor activities when possible, the adaptation was natural. “We do everything outside,” Alan said. Tents are set up for rainy days.
How is the new year going?
Families are adapting to the new rules, Diane said. The children, meanwhile, are doing just fine," she said even with new safety rules that seem counterintuitive to the way children play.
To keep contact to a minimum, OCFS mandates that children have all their own supplies. That includes their own crayons, their own toys and puzzles, even their own play food for the play kitchen.
On a recent visit, 4-year-olds at West Street were building together, using their own set of construction toys but comparing their work and mimicking each others’ designs. Others were at the kitchen set, cooking up a “party” each using their own color-coded plastic fruit and designated pans. 

“It didn’t take much effort,” West Street teacher Melissa Wells said of getting the kids acclimated to the new way to share play but not play items. “They need a reminder every once in a while.”
Myria said that the program is going great, even though her income is basically cut in half. In September, she was taking care of an infant, a 2-year-old, two 3-year-olds and two 4-year-olds. She no longer accepts after-school children in order to minimize exposure to the full-time children in her care, as well as to herself and her assistant.
Diane said that children haven’t shown much concern about teachers wearing masks or even putting on their own -- they take them on and off by themselves when needed. “It’s just a whole different way of living,” she said. “It calls for a little creativity.”
“It’s been a challenge but you have to adapt to it,” Diane said. “Because families do need the services and children do need the socialization.”
Alan agreed. “It’s all going really well,” Berger said. “The parents are totally cooperative. The kids are having a fantastic time. I think it’s working.”
How families continue to adapt
After near universal shutdowns, families continue to navigate child care amid a pandemic. From child care to after-school programs, the landscape continues to shift. Here are how two Rockland County families meet the challenge.
Single mom, healthcare professional
Larisa Cederbaums is Director of Staffing for a nursing home and mom to a 10-year-old son who goes to school in Suffern. When schools closed in March, Larisa, a single mom, relied on babysitters when she was at work. During the height of the pandemic, her hours increased and so did her babysitting needs, forcing her to borrow off her credit card to cover costs.

CCRR was thrilled to provide help for Larisa. As an essential worker, Larisa qualified for a CARES child care tuition subsidy, facilitated by the state’s disbursement of federal CARES Act funding. CCRR helped her find appropriate child care at the YMCA summer program. With her subsidy and her $1,200 stimulus check, Larisa was happy that she could afford a safe place to care for her son while she worked. Her son was happy to be with other children. 

What’s next? 

Now that Rockland had gone through the worst of the pandemic, Larisa’s hours were cut. Her son’s school planned a fully remote start. Tuition aid was running out and Larisa didn’t qualify for other scholarships or grants.

Larisa found a private school with in-person attendance and an affordable tuition. That’s cut down on her child care needs and given her son some structure. Her son loves his new school and is happy to be with other children. But Larisa still struggles to balance school costs and the rent.
Two professionals, two babies

State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Clare Zebrowski, a nurse anesthetist, were still on leave, with a 3-month-old and a 1 ½-year-old, when the March shutdowns began. Their older daughter’s child care program shut. With Clare on maternity leave and Ken able to work remotely, the family made adjustments.

In May, Clare was heading back to work and Ken needed to attend meetings here and in Albany. Family members stepped in to provide care, but only when COVID-19 cases receded in the area and the family thought it was safer for everyone. 
Ken, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations, knows the impact of the pandemic on businesses, individuals and families. They know that not everyone has family support nearby and work flexibility.
What’s next?
The children recently returned to their child care program, which the Zebrowskis had previously found with assistance from CCRR. 
The parents remain cautious and continue to adjust family safety measures to the new reality.
A message from the Executive Director
The COVID-19 health pandemic has changed so much of our world these past several months. Sadness, frustration, and anxiety abound, yet so much good has also come from this crisis. We are reconnecting with family, friends, and neighbors in new ways. Collaboration and cooperation look a bit different. Tasks and services from the very simple to the very complicated are being re-imagined and reconsidered, including early childhood education and school-age care.

Since March, conversations around the importance and value of quality, safe, affordable child care has risen to a level of national consciousness not previously seen or heard. Scores of news articles have been written about why #ChildCareIsEssential and about gaping holes in the child care system – particularly about the financial gap between what families pay for child care and what child care providers earn.

As families cried out for help finding and paying for child care, providers struggled with the decision to remain open while potentially risking their health or risking their business altogether. As we and our sister agencies throughout New York and the country worked with providers and families, we heard repeatedly that the system does not work well and is underfunded. Congress’ allocation of $163 million to New York State in support of early childhood education and school-age care shone a light on this disparity: funds were used for tuition support; for operating grants; and for rental assistance.

Whether and how to enlist the help of others when caring for our children can be a complicated question. We know the incredibly positive impact quality child care has on young children. However, for many families, accessing safe, quality, affordable early childhood education and school-age care outside the home is absolutely necessary in order for the adults to work or attend school. Right now, too many families cannot afford the cost of care, and too many providers cannot afford the increased costs of doing business.

As the immediate COVID-19 emergency subsides and we adjust to new routines, we cannot not let the call wane for significant investment in early childhood education and school-age care. We must continue to advocate for improvements to child care systems and for policies that support children and families. You can learn more about national efforts by Child Care Aware of America, about state efforts by the Early Care and Learning Council, or by contacting me directly. We invite you to join us in our advocacy efforts. Now more than ever we have an opportunity to affect change. And as Election Day approaches, we hope you will consider the positions candidates have or have not taken in support of children, families, and child care when you cast your vote.

Vicki Caramante
A message from the Board President
When Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency here in New York on March 7, 2020, little did we know how profoundly all of our lives would change over the next several months. Schools abruptly closed, businesses have been compelled to find new ways to operate with many forced to close, too many of our previously employed neighbors were furloughed or now are without a job, there is food insecurity in too many parts of the region, and all of it is having a yet to be fully understood impact upon our community’s children, many too young to understand.

Yet, despite all that we have been through, and recognizing, of course, what still remains before us until COVID-19 is nothing more than a distant unpleasant memory, we must do as we always have done, and that is advocate for children and their families. While most of us will not be in the laboratories searching for a COVID cure, all of us can be on the front line for our children. In the same manner that scientists are focused on searching for an anticipated COVID stopping breakthrough, we must remain focused on our goal, the well-being of children and families.

Summer is now behind us and school, whether in-person, virtual or some combination of both, is back in session. While certainly there can be no doubt that many things have changed, and while it is equally true that some level of uncertainty will remain with us for the foreseeable future, we cannot allow any of that to deter us from the responsibility we have to the children of our community. We must redouble our efforts in everything we do. Now more than ever, parents will need our help in selecting a child care program that meets the needs of their children. Childcare professionals are facing many challenges and we must provide them with an abundance of resources so that they in turn can provide children with the highest possible quality of care. As the business community struggles to get back on its feet, we must show them the connectivity between quality childcare and productive and fully invested employees who are necessary for our economy to bounce back and move forward. Our elected representatives in Albany and Washington must be constantly reminded that investing in children pays an immeasurable dividend of healthy and thriving communities.

While in the months ahead we will face many more challenges, the legacy of CCRR is getting the job done and I have no doubt that we will achieve our mission of promoting, supporting and enhancing the healthy development of all children. Former First Lady Michelle Obama once said:

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important
for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity
is actually one of your biggest advantages.

In the months ahead, let us commit to turning each challenge into an advantage as we work together for our community.

Stephen M. Fromson
Infant Toddler Development
Supporting Emotion Regulation and Minimizing Challenging Behavior During COVID-19 
by Jenny Spampinato, Infant/Toddler Quality Enhancement Specialist
The past several months has resulted in significant changes to everyday lives. We have had to adapt to shifts in normal routine, changes in academic instruction, and separation from family and friends. These changes have had an extreme impact on many of us, especially young children.

In young children, increased stress may present as tantrums, defiance, difficultly transitioning, irritability, and clinging to caregivers and loved ones. Children may be experiencing a variety of big emotions: fear, confusion, anger, anxiety, and sadness, all which may influence the development of or increase of challenging behaviors. By using a variety of behavior strategies, parents and caregivers can better manage challenging behaviors and meet the individual needs of each child. Please read more.
Nurse's Notes
Health & Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic
A Letter to My Idols and Heroes – Child Care Providers! 
by Kristin G. Saunders, RN, BSN
I want to start out by commending you for diligence and for the hard work - blood, sweat, and tears - you have put into your programs since the start of the pandemic. You all are shouldering a heavy burden trying to figure out how to keep everyone safe and healthy, how to survive financially, how to safely staff your programs, and how to mentally survive this new life we are all living.

Your day to day may look different now but your intentions and hearts are still in the same place: committed to providing a safe, healthy, loving, educational, and quality child care environment for children. Thank you for all that you do for the children, families, and staff in your programs! You are my idols and heroes!

Whether you never closed your doors, or closed and are now reopening, welcoming children and staff back into a program looks very different. As a reminder, there are several things you will need to have in place in order to re-open safety.

First, you will need to have your NYS Forward Safety Plan completed and posted in your program. Please click here to continue reading this article.
Q&A for Child Care Providers
Question What is a CBC?
Answer A CBC, or Comprehensive Background Check, is a background check that is frequently referred to as the 6000 Series. All individuals involved in child care to include full and part time staff, substitutes, volunteers, and household members 18 years and older, are required to have a background check completed. To get more information and the forms you will need in order to be compliant log on to Go to: Child Care, Information for Providers, and then click on forms. Enter 6000 as the code number.

The background checks include:
  • New York State Criminal History
  • FBI Criminal History
  • Child Abuse and Maltreatment Registry Screening
  • New York State Sex Offender Registry Check
  • National Criminal and Information Center-National Sex Offender Registry

In addition, you must have a current medical completed by an authorized health care consultant, completed qualifications form and criminal conviction statement, and provide at least two references.

PARENTS WHO ARE SEARCHING FOR CHILD CARE should know that New York State requires all providers of regulated child care go through both state and federal background checks to help insure the safety and well being of the children. 

To learn about the New York State Office of Children and Family Services regulations and the role Child Care Resources of Rockland plays in helping maintain these safety standards, please contact our Director of Program Standards and Support Services, Elaine Trotta, at 845-425-0009 x421 or


Question How many training hours are required for part-time staff?
Answer In October 2019, New York State Office of Children and Family Services began requiring 30 hours of training in the nine component areas (eight for school age child care center staff) every two years. This applies to everyone who works in child care regardless of the number of hours worked. It also applies to volunteers. You must be able to demonstrate completion of this training when you renew and at your midpoint.
Pack a Better Lunch!
CCRR has been working with the Rockland County Department of Health on a Sodium Reduction in Communities Program Grant from the New York State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As part of the grant CCRR has promoted low sodium meals and snacks as part of a healthy diet through the creation of newsletters and brochures, and social media posts. In this brochure, you will find low sodium snack suggestions, tips for packing young children's lunches, and healthy eating information for preschoolers.
While food rules have changed for child care programs due to COVID-19, child care providers and families can still ensure healthy snacks and meals for children by following good nutrition guidelines. Being aware of sodium levels is one way to effectively manage a healthy diet.
Congratulations New/Renewed Licensed/Registered Programs
Group Family Child Care
Magalite Sylvain 
Michelle Dietze 
Fairy Steps Childcare Corp. 
Shapiro's LLC 
Just Us Kids, Inc. 
Gan K'Tan 
Annmarie Meehan 
Shaindel Spitzer

Child Care Center
 New City Jewish Center 
While shopping on Amazon, please go to Amazon Smile and select Child Care Resources of Rockland, Inc. as your charity. Amazon will donate a percentage of your purchases. Thank you for supporting access to safe, quality child care for all children.
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Take the census; learn how here.
For the CCRR staff directory please click here. Board of Directors list can be found here.

OFFICE CLOSINGS: Columbus Day: October 12; Veteran's Day: November 11; Thanksgiving holiday: November 26 & 27; Christmas and New Year holidays: December 25 & 31.