March 17, 2021

Reflections: Struggling To Keep Daycare Doors Open Amid The Pandemic

Children at Amber Gritter's home day care pose for a fall photo. - Amber Gritter

Children at Amber Gritter's home day care pose for a fall photo.

Amber Gritter

All this month, we reflect on the pandemic -- revisit people we interviewed, commemorate those we lost, and ask you about your experiences. Today we continue our Reflections with Amber Gritter, a child care provider interviewed for a story on the struggled to stay afloat this year -- if some of your students don't stay, how do you afford to continue for the ones that need you? Gritter managed to do that. Here is part of her story.

The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Everybody actually left for the month of April and I was closed. So, I had a whole month of no income from anybody because nobody was working. It was very scary.

We're all a little family, so when somebody leaves they all know, and we’re all kind of like, “man, we miss so and so.” And you definitely can tell. I've lost a few families, but I've been able to make up one of them.

My kids that are here during the whole day, they do not wear masks because they’re siblings. With the older school kids, when they come in I make them pretty much shoes off, coats, everything's not allowed in the house. You have to wash, wear clean masks, all of that. It freaks me out.

As compared to before, I had more time to actually play with the kids and actually read to the kids, and now it seems like I'm just cleaning all the time. We go through a lot of paper towels and soap. Then the prices of it have all gone up so much. You know, you used to be able to buy a box of Clorox wipes for two bucks, and now it's like six. But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to keep the kiddos clean and safe.

It's been very, very difficult to get enrollment. I've tried advertising. I even paid for advertising, and just there's nobody looking for child care right now. We had to go back down to minimum payments on credit cards and try to pay as much as we could on the electric bill, you know, because it's wintertime and it’s cold. So there's a few things that we had to finagle -- not take the animals to the vet, kind of skip some doctor's appointments.

I haven't bought stuff for me personally, or my husband, really, personally. I haven't been buying the kids as many new toys. I used to go every weekend, or every other weekend, and buy them new stuff. Just because you know, “hey, look at this they’ll like it.” I haven't been able to do that all year. That's a big thing because I enjoy doing that. That's something I like to do. So, not being able to has just been a bummer.

Home, daycares are not rich people -- by any means. If you looked at my tax returns, you would see, “Oh, wow, why are you still doing this?” But daycare providers do it because of the love of the kids. That's what it comes down to. We love our children, like family and we want to set them up for the best possible start to life.

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