Both the city and west Boca campuses have reopened, mostly for children of frontline workers. But as Ellyn Okrent, CEO of Florence Fuller Child Development Centers says, “We’ve reopened in very uncertain times.”
Q: You usually serve more than 800 children and their families. Can you still do that?
A: Half the children. All the slots we have available are filled on both campuses. We’re following CDC guidelines with no more than 10 kids in a room, which has decreased the number of the kids we can take.
Q: You serve at-risk children. Who was taking care of them since you closed March 13?
A: Their parents are largely working parents that need to be at work. They were leaving kids with grandmas and friends and struggling tremendously.
Q: What will the CDC guidelines for child care mean for your agency financially?
A: We had to add staff and it’s an extra huge financial burden to fulfill health and safety guidelines. We’re doing all the sanitations, washing masks, and sanitizing shoes and tables, taking temperatures. Keeping kids separated. I needed more manpower. About 10 more people, five on each campus.
Q: People think you’re government subsidized but you really have to raise most of the money to do this. What will you do now?
A: The reality is we need money. We are taking a huge hit. Our fundraising has tanked. We will take “Men with Caring Hearts” virtually and shooting for October. Wee Dreams [fundraising gala] is up in the air.
Q: Explain why this situation has become a crisis.
A: We’re serving less than 50% percent of the kids. We have no guarantee past July 30 we will have continued funding from state and federal contracts. We’re going from month to month to find out if we can continue to pay our staff. Childcare is an essential service. We were always looked at as babysitting, but we’re ensuring children are provided for and our staff was never paid adequate wages. This is the tipping point for child care. Florence Fuller is OK today, but we can’t take on more debt. It’s scary. If the virus hits this place, we will close.
Q: What can you do to avoid that happening?
A: We take temperatures and anybody in contact has to get tested or the children have to get a doctor’s release and come back cleared.
Q: What do you need now?
A: Money. We have huge investments to retrofit campuses for guidelines for health and safety. Increased staffing costs. Increased maintenance costs. Child care is essential to bringing back our economy.
Q: Anything else?
A: We want to have inside shoes easy to put on and keep sanitized like Crocs or copies.
By Marci Shatzman