Working parents juggle child care amid COVID-19 pandemic

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The Ward family. (Source: Carla Ward)

The Ward family. (Source: Carla Ward)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As thousands of Texans get back to work this weekend, many wonder how they will juggle work responsibilities and child care. At present, open child care and day care facilities are only allowed to provide care for the children of essential workers such as health care workers, first responders and grocery store employees.

Friday, thousands of hair, nail and tanning salons, barbershops and wedding venues are allowed to reopen per Governor Greg Abbott announcement earlier this week.

“We’re not essential workers,” the co-owner of Ward’s Barbershop, Carla Ward said. “Now, we’re expected to go back to work, and we don’t have any tools. We have guidelines. We don’t have any assistance with the PPE, we don’t have child care, it’s going to be difficult.”

Carla Ward at Ward’s Barbershop. (Source: Carla Ward)

Barbers Carla and Lewis Ward are just two parents facing the child care dilemma. Carla plans to reopen the family shop on Monday. Lewis said he had made plans to reopen on May 18, so when the governor made the announcement to open Friday, it didn’t change his mind.

“I’m just not as eager to get back into it like she is,”Ward said about his wife. “I had a different date in mind.”

However, Carla, like many other families, said they have no choice but to go back to work.

“We have to go back,” she said. “At some point that is our job, and that is how we feed our kids.”

Lewis plans to take the time off to figure out a safe child care option for his two elementary-aged children.

With no child care facilities allowed to take in other children besides the essential workers’ children, Joan Altobelli, the YMCA Vice President of Licensed Child Care Services said that can be problematic.

“People start looking for alternative forms,” she said. “Then you’re looking at another whole set of issues for kids. they’re going to a friend’s house now they’re breaking quarantine. Whatever is at their house, they’re bringing to the friend’s house.”

Before COVID-19, The Ward family depended on help from a sitter. Lewis said he plans to contact her to figure out how they can begin child care while staying safe, and the family plans to stagger schedules to ensure their children’s child care and well-being.

At present, Governor Abbott’s office told KXAN they’re working on a child care plan.

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