Wendy Dewall used to have eight to twelve children daily in her family child care program, now it ranges from one to five kids. Like many child care providers, she has lost thousands of dollars due to the pandemic, but she is staying open for the families who need her.
“I offered two weeks of non-payment to each of my families to help them at the start of this pandemic. Then some of my families chose to continue to keep their children home and are still paying me, but I don’t know how long they will be able to continue. Three of my families have one parent who has been furloughed without pay, and two of those are furloughed indefinitely.”
A $1,000 emergency grant from Think Small helped with a loss of income initially, allowing her to hold spots for some of her families. Dewall did not receive a Peacetime Emergency Grant from the state, but is hopeful she will get one in the second round.
“I do think the state grants are too large per person/center,” said Dewall. “I wish they were smaller so more childcare providers could receive some aid rather, than a small number receiving a larger amount.”
Dewall says she is nervous about getting sick herself and not being able to stay open. She knows she and other child care providers play an important role by providing routine, stability, and a loving environment for children so their parents can work.
The worry and the extra hours each day cleaning and sanitizing her home and toys have taken its toll. “I’m exhausted,” said Dewall. “But I love my job and my families. I’m blessed to be an educator and care provider for the youngest Minnesotans.”
Dewall is married with five children — four of them who are doing distance learning. Her husband is an essential employee and still working from his office. Dewall has a Bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education. She started offering in-home child care 16 years ago — first from Brooklyn Park, and more recently from Minnetonka.
“My families who have been furloughed are not sure they will have jobs to return to. Some are understandably nervous about exposure and when it is okay to return their child to care,” Dewall said. “Knowing when to keep your child home and for how long is also a big concern.”
The children are also struggling from the uncertainty of the pandemic. “Parents have told me the children miss me and their friends,” Dewall said. “They miss going to the park. They miss seeing their grandparents.”
Dewall says she has learned a lot more about available technology due to the pandemic. She has a private Facebook group for her families and has started doing Facebook Live story times and sharing activity ideas so that her families who are at home can still see her every day and stay connected with what they are learning.
“This has been a highlight during this difficult time,” she said. “And the children who are still here are amazing! They have adjusted to less toys and their imaginations have increased. I am so thankful for the sunshine and early spring so we could get outside.”