While schools have been closed and businesses shuttered, some New Hampshire daycare centers have remained open with special dispensation from the state, caring for up to 6,000 children.
And despite these children spending hours a day indoors and in close proximity, there’s no sign of increased infections or negative health consequences among Granite State kids.
As Gov. Chris Sununu’s flex plan for the economy makes it possible for more people to return to work, demand for daycare services is growing.
“We are seeing an increase in referrals as families start to head back to work and as some look for summer care options,” Tracy Pond, program manager for Child Care Aware of New Hampshire in Nashua, said on Wednesday.
Child Care Aware of N.H. is a statewide child care resource and referral program. These options include center-based programs, family child care, school-age programming, Montessori-based options, Head Start, Early Head Start, summer camps and license-exempt care, Pond said.
This program is offered at no cost and is powered by Southern New Hampshire Services, one of five community action agencies in the state.
Working with the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Bureau of Child Development and Head Start Collaboration, Child Care Aware of N.H. has created an online map of early childhood and school-age programs within the state that have been designated as DHHS Emergency Child Care Programs.
Almost 400 programs have reached that designation, which will allow them to obtain incentive payments to support staff salaries, operations and supplies through federal, state and philanthropic funding.
Child Care of N.H. has assembled a list of 32 people willing to provide child care and are posting that contact information on their website, nh.childcareaware.org.
Kaleah Cardinal, 20, of Goffstown, is one of the people on the list. She has been a babysitter and nanny for seven years and is willing to watch children in Goffstown, Manchester, Londonderry, Litchfield, Derry, Salem, Hampstead and Plaistow.
“I am offering child care services wherever I am needed. So far, I have been asked mostly to care for children in centers such as an overnight shift at a group home and an associate teacher position in a child care center,” Cardinal said.
In a family setting, Cardinal can supervise up to eight children and is available for interviews on Zoom for people who would prefer a babysitter or nanny over child care centers in the coming months.
It is estimated that approximately 6,000 children of essential workers are currently in daycare in the Granite State.
Child care centers have a way to go before they reach full capacity again. Officials say only about 20 percent of child care providers stayed open during the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, there was room for 46,000 children to be enrolled in child care in New Hampshire
According to the May 4 weekly summary report from NH DHHS, only 18 children in the entire state nine years old and younger have tested positive for COVID-19. There were two hospitalizations and no deaths.
In the 10-to-19-year-old population, 100 people were infected, there were four hospitalizations and no deaths.
Over the same period, there have been more than 110 deaths among the state’s nursing home population.