Child Care and COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Section A: Child care options for families
1. What is the status of child care in Connecticut?
Although the state of Connecticut never required child care centers to close, some centers choose to close or were closed by local authorities. Centers that are open following guidelines to make sure children are safe.
2. Where can I find child care?
Although there may be fewer providers operating right now, many have reopened. 2-1-1 Child Care is constantly surveying centers and homes to keep track of where there are openings for new children.
You can find information about open child care programs by dialing 2-1-1 or using the search feature on the 2-1-1 Child Care website.
3. I work for a public school that is reopening and I need child care soon. Where can I find information about child care spaces in my area?
OEC has collaborated with the United Way of Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Child Care to provide a dedicated support line for educators. Board of Education staff can call 860-756-0864 to get help.
4. In the event that my child care facility closes, are families still charged for enrollment?
Programs may continue to charge family fees when a program is closed in accordance with existing program policies and current family fees. Programs need to consider the fiscal needs of their business but may waive family fees or implement a hardship policy due to the COVID-19 emergency. Families that are able to do so are encouraged to continue to pay family fees so that programs can cover ongoing costs (e.g., payroll, monthly building expenses) and are more likely to remain in business and provide care after this emergency has ended.
For families that have a Care4Kids certificate and have had to find another provider due to a program closure, the family fee will be applied to the new alternate provider. See the Care4Kids FAQ for additional information.
5. My work involves travel to other states. Will I still be able to send my child to child care?
OEC has urged child care programs to develop a written policy that outlines how they will implement the CT travel advisory. Be sure to ask your child’s program what their policy is and discuss plans before your travel.
Read the OEC Guidance to Child Care about the CT Travel Advisories for additional information and links.
6. Are child care programs allowed to provide care for school-age children on days when they are engaged in remote learning that is being provided by the public schools?
As long as programs meet requirements — such as group size and the regulations that apply to licensed programs — they are allowed to provide care to children who are engaged in remote learning. We suggest making clear arrangements with families. For example, you might want to discuss break times and what role the child care teacher will play during remote learning. For more information on child care provisions for school age children during COVID-19, see Memo #30.
Section B: Health and safety — Family communication, cleaning, daily procedures, and testing
1. How do we make sure our staff, children, and families are safe?
OEC has released Guidance for Child Care During COVID-19. This document includes information about group size limits, screening procedures, and more. Additional support for making individual program or provider decisions regarding health and safety may be accessed through your program’s health consultant, the local public health department, and/or individuals’ medical providers.
2. How do we communicate with families regarding the safety practices we are following? Will flyers or signs be provided?
OEC has produced printable flyers regarding operating a child care center during COVID-19. Each center will have its own specific considerations. So they may select to use OEC provider flyers or create their own informational handouts to provide families with information about any program-specific health and safety practices.
3. How does the CT Travel Advisory affect child care programs? How do we handle it if families or staff live in or travel to an affected state?
Executive Order 7BBB, which went into effect on June 25, 2020, directs anyone traveling into Connecticut from a state with a high rate of COVID-19 transmission to self-quarantine for 14 days. Note that per the travel advisory, individuals coming to Connecticut for less than 24 hours are not required to self-quarantine.
For more information, visit the state web site related to the travel advisory. OEC urges all child care programs to develop a written policy that outlines how they will implement the Connecticut travel advisory and to communicate with families about that policy. Read Memo #26, which includes the full Guidance to Child Care about the CT Travel Advisories.
4. Should providers, families, or children wear gloves?
It depends on the person and the situation. Take a look at CDC’s guidance related to when you should wear gloves.
CDC recommends that the general public wear gloves when cleaning or caring for someone who is sick.
CDC also recommends that child care providers wear gloves when:
- Cleaning or caring for someone who is sick
- Changing a child’s diapers
CDC does not indicate that you need to wear gloves during other daily routines — such as running errands — and suggests taking continued preventative measures, such as frequent hand-washing.
If you do wear gloves, make sure you know how to remove them properly to prevent the spread of germs. See CDC’s poster on how to remove gloves.
Cleaning and disinfection
5. What disinfecting procedures should we put in place? How can we manage the time required for these procedures?
The CDC guidance for child care programs that remain open includes guidance related to cleaning and disinfecting. Programs may consider shortening hours of child care in order to allow time for staff to complete cleaning procedures. Programs may also designate staff whose sole responsibility is to implement enhanced cleaning procedures throughout the day.
6. What is the process for securing needed cleaning supplies that are available for center-based and family child care homes?
OEC works closely with the State’s Emergency Operations Center to secure health and cleaning supplies for use by open child care providers. Due to limited availability our current focus must be on getting needed supplies to programs currently serving young children. In order to access supplies:
- Programs should report their open or closed status using 2-1-1’s online provider survey. Confirm your current email to ensure you receive all communications. 2-1-1 provides OEC with the list of which programs are open.
- OEC then provides open programs with contact information for supply locations to arrange pick ups.
You might also want to check the Department of Administrative Services for more information. They provide a list of companies that can provide needed supplies (hand sanitizer, masks, and cleaning supplies) in smaller quantities at competitive prices. See the list of companies providing supplies.
7. What process should we use to screen children as they come in each day?
OEC Memo #15 requires that all child care programs must screen staff and children for any observable illness, including cough or respiratory distress. OEC has provided additional guidance on approaches to health screening procedures in Section 5 of the OEC Guidance for Child Care During COVID-19.
8. How do we handle drop off and pick up?
Programs should consider their unique facility in order to minimize contact between groups of children and to limit contact between staff and families. Programs might consider having families drop children off outside, staggering start times, and encouraging families to bring their own pens to sign children in and out. For additional guidance, see the CDC website.
9. Should we be ensuring that children in the same group/cohort are social distancing?
Steps should be taken to maintain physical distance of 6 feet between children when possible, such as during nap and meal times. In addition, programs can plan many activities that involve physical distance between children. But it is not realistic to expect young children to maintain distance from each other throughout all activities. For this reason, it is important to have other strategies in place, such as maintaining a consistent cohort and maintaining distance from other groups. Children within a cohort adhering to group size limits should be permitted to play together and interact.
10. How should we handle snacks and meals?
Programs should follow current policies regarding food. You may continue to serve food or allow families to send food for their child. CDC advises:
- If you typically serve meals family-style, plate individual children’s meals so that serving utensils are not shared
- Staff and children wash hands before and after snacks and meals
- Staff wash their hands during a snack or meal if they have assisted a child with eating
- If possible, food preparation should not be done by the same staff who diaper children
Licensed child care centers and group child care homes in CT are already required to have a separate hand washing sink for food preparation. If possible, family child care homes and license-exempt programs should also have food preparation sinks that are not used for other purposes.
See the CDC’s guidance on food preparation and meal service.
11. How can we serve children who might have health issues? Is it safe for them to attend child care?
Encourage all families to talk with their health care providers before enrolling their child in care. Share the safety measures you are taking and make sure you have a plan in place to address any emerging health issues. The licensing requirement pertaining to the development of an individual plan of care for a child with special health care needs still applies.
12. How do we handle placement of siblings?
If siblings are in the same age group, it is ideal to keep them in the same classroom in order to limit the number of contacts for family and staff.
Testing and diagnosis
13. How do we handle the situation if children have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19?
The CDC recommends that individuals who are healthy but have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 stay home for 14 days after the last exposure. See the CDC guidance on Quarantine and Isolation for more information about CDC recommended practices. Programs should seek guidance from the CT Department of Public Health and/or local health departments regarding specific circumstances of exposure.
14. What do we do if a child or staff member tests positive to COVID-19?
If a child or staff member who has been present in the program is diagnosed with COVID-19, the provider must notify the following:
- The local department of health in the town of residence of the case/patient (see contact information for local health departments)
- The CT Department of Public Health (DPH) Epidemiology and Emerging Infection Program at 860-509-7994 during regular hours (or 860-509-8000 during weekends and after hours)
- Families and staff of the program about the exposure
Note that reporting to public health officials is required on the day of recognition or strong suspicion of the disease. More information about reporting cases of COVID-19 is available in Memo #6.
15. Do childcare providers get priority for COVID-19 testing?
Yes. Priority testing lines for Child Care and Youth Camp Providers, OEC funded Home Visiting, and Birth to Three providers are available at several locations throughout the state. You can find a site with a priority testing line by visiting the Priority Workforce Testing webpage. Details about the process for each site are available through each testing site’s listing and website. You should expect to bring identification from your workplace such as an ID badge, payroll stub, or business card in order to access the priority testing line. For more information about COVID-19 testing for early care and education providers see OEC Memo #23.
Licensing requirements during COVID-19
16. How will licensing inspections be handled during COVID-19?
OEC Memo #25 includes information about shortened licensing inspections focused on enhanced requirements during COVID-19. Licensing staff will reach out to all child care centers, group child care homes, and family child care homes prior to the visit to verify that you are open, to answer questions, and to share the safety precautions they will take when visiting your program.
17. Will the physical and immunizations requirements continue to be waived?
The waiver of immunization requirements per OEC Memo #7 will terminate on September 9, 2020. The waiver for health record requirements will continue until November 9, 2020, unless extended or modified. See Memo #28 for more information.
Section C: Health and Safety — Masks
1. Do children in child care programs and youth camps need to wear face masks? If families request that a child wear a face mask, is this okay?
Yes, as of September 21, 2020, children age 3 and older are required to wear masks while in child care centers, homes, schools, and camps. Because this is a new requirement programs have until October 19, 2020 to phase it in fully. This will allow time for children, family and staff to get used to the new rule. Programs also need to develop a written policy regarding mask wearing that they share with families and staff. For more details about this requirement see OEC Memo #29.
2. Do children need to wear masks all day?
Children can take off their masks during meals and nap/rest time, although distance between children must be maximized when they have their masks off. Children may also remove masks for outdoor activities. Programs might also consider planning “mask breaks” when children can safely remove their masks while remaining distanced from others.
3. Why has the guidance about young children wearing masks changed?
We’ve always based our COVID-19 guidance on the best available scientific evidence, which is constantly evolving. Our new requirement follows updated recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The requirement for children to wear masks is included with other strategies that are designed to work together to help keep children, staff, and their families safe. By helping children, staff, and their families stay healthy, child care centers, homes and schools will be more likely to remain open.
4. What specific information exists that supports children 3 years and older wearing masks?
Here’s what we now know from the experts:
- COVID-19 is spread through the respiratory droplets in the air and masks reduce exposure to these droplets
- Children may carry high levels of virus (large viral load), which increases the risk of it spreading
- Children may show no signs of COVID-19 and still be able to spread this virus
- As schools and businesses reopen, people’s social circles are expanding, which increases the risk of exposure
Studying the virus in real-life settings is providing new information. There’s more to be learned as the pandemic progresses.
- Pediatric SARS-CoV-2: Clinical Presentation, Infectivity, and Immune Responses (Journal of Pediatrics)
- Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers (CDC)
- Transmission Dynamics of COVID-19 Outbreaks Associated with Child Care Facilities — Salt Lake City, Utah, April–July 2020 | MMWR
5. Is it really safe for young children to wear masks?
Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics says: “Cloth face coverings are an important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. They are safe and effective for children over the age of 2 years and adults.”
According to experts, common fears about wearing masks — that they might affect a child’s oxygen levels or immune system — are not based on scientific evidence. To get the facts about common misconceptions — read the AAP’s Mask Mythbusters: 5 Common Misconceptions about Kids & Cloth Face Coverings.
6. When children are wearing masks we can’t see their mouths. What if a child chokes or has an allergic reaction?
Because masks are now required, providers may need to increase their focus on other signs or symptoms and/or revise individual plans of care. Consider the following strategies:
- Review children’s records regarding any potential allergies. Allergic symptoms frequently occur shortly after contact with the allergen and attention should be paid to any children with allergies at these times. Check for any symptoms identified by health care practitioners.
- Choking is most likely to occur while a child is eating. Since masks are removed when children are eating, you should have a full view of children’s mouths at this time.
- An individual plan of care is required for any child with special health care needs such as allergies, dietary issues, and asthma. Review these plans and add any additional information related to wearing a mask. Speak to your health consultant, the child’s health care provider, or parents for specific questions.
- Watch for other symptoms or behaviors that are unusual for a child. Ask questions about “what is wrong” as you continue to observe the child.
7. How can we support children’s social and emotional development when everyone is wearing masks?
In early childhood settings, we often rely on facial expressions to show emotion and cue children — and that may seem a lot harder with all of us wearing masks. But the good news is that some researchers have found that young children can still classify facial expressions when mouths are covered. Read the study, which was published in Cognition.
You can also add some strategies to support children’s social and emotional development. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Increase the use of gestures and animation to show emotion
- Add visual cues, such as mood meters or pictures of children with different expressions
- Ask children how they are feeling frequently
- Share your own emotions verbally
- Teach children sign language as a way to express emotions
- Partner with families to support learning at home when masks are not required
Visit OEC’s webpage on supporting children’s social and emotional needs for more resources and strategies.
8. What is the timeline for implementing the requirement for children to wear masks?
OEC Memo #29 specifies that the new requirement is effective on September 21, 2020. However, programs may develop a phase-in plan extending up to October 19, 2020 for implementation to allow time for children to adjust to the requirement and help families adjust. Programs will not be cited for violating this policy until after October 19, 2020.
9. How will we know what to include in our program’s mask policy?
OEC has provided a sample policy to help guide you, but you will need to consider certain[LM1] things unique to your program. This might include how often you offer mask breaks and how you store and transport masks. OEC suggests that you engage your health consultant and/or families in creating a policy that addresses the requirement in Memo # 29.
10. What do we need to have in place for an exemption from the mask policy?
In order for a child to be exempted from the mask policy, you’ll need documentation of a medical condition, special health care need, developmental need, disability, or special education need. Depending upon the child’s needs, documentation might be provided by a licensed medical professional or special education personnel. For a list of exemptions, review pages 2-3 of OEC Memo #29.
11. What if a child doesn’t keep their mask on?
Your program’s mask policy should address how you’ll respond when a child struggles to keep a mask on throughout the day. This policy might involve working with the child’s family to develop a plan of action. A plan could involve offering gentle reminders, establishing a process for teaching and practicing mask wearing, providing positive reinforcement, and stressing the importance caring for our community by wearing a mask. The OEC webpage about Supporting Children and Families During COVID-19 includes strategies and resources for getting children comfortable wearing masks.
For some children, the process might involve exploring whether a documented exemption is appropriate for this child due to a medical, sensory, or special education need.
12. Will our program be cited if a child isn’t wearing a mask?
No — we will not cite programs based on a child’s compliance. OEC licensing will focus on staff and program compliance with the policy.
13. What should we do if a family refuses to have their children wear masks?
A: It’s important to address this specifically in your mask policy and to talk with families about this new requirement
We know that this may lead to difficult conversations. [This resource] has for some pointers about how to talk to parents — and why it’s important not just for the protection of their own child, but all the other children, staff and families of the program.
If a parent continues to refuse, you need to tell them that you can’t have their child attend your program. If you did — and allowed a child to continue to attend without a mask — your program would be considered in violation of the mask requirement.
14. Can programs disenroll a child because the family refuses to have their child wear a mask?
Yes, provided that the program is adhering to its policy on mask wearing.
15. How do we handle mixed-age groups in which only some children of the children are required to wear a mask?
We recognize that it can be somewhat tricky to have different rules for different children. But this happens frequently in child care — such as when a child has an allergy or when children in a group have different religious or cultural practices. The best approach is to be honest. Talk with children about why we wear masks, explain that they are old enough to help keep others safe, and that they will be wearing a mask just like the teachers.
This flyer has some strategies to help children feel comfortable wearing masks.
You might also be able to take steps toward having a consistent expectation for a group of children. You can include a requirement that children over the age of 2 wear masks in your program’s policy. Or you might work with families of children who are not yet 3 but who are in a preschool class to determine if mask-wearing is appropriate for them.
16. How should we handle transporting and storing masks?
A: There are many practical considerations for the handling of masks. You may want to include some of them in your mask policy — such as how families should transport masks from home to school and back again. The CDC offers some practical guidance related to masks in schools, including the following:
- Ensure that all students and staff understand that they should never share or swap masks.
- Students’ masks should be clearly identified with their names or initials to avoid confusion or swapping. Students’ masks may also be labeled to indicate top/bottom and front/back.
- Masks should be stored in a space designated for each student that is separate from others when not being worn (e.g., in individuallylabeled containers or bags, personal lockers, or cubbies).
- For more strategies, please see the CDC’s section on practical considerations.
8. Can we really expect young children to wear masks and keep them on?
Some programs have already successfully had young children wear masks in child care and school settings. These programs report positive experiences when they have worked with families, used stories and visual reminders, and allowed children time to practice and adjust to wearing masks. This flyer includes important information and resources you can share with families to help them adjust to wearing masks.
In addition, there are many resources on our Supporting Children and Families During COVID-19 that may be helpful as you work with families. And since we know that learning a new routine takes time, children who just enrolled or just turned 3 years old are allowed up to 2 months to adjust.
9. What if a young child can’t safely wear a mask? Do we need to exclude children from child care?
If a child has a documented medical condition, special health care need, disability, or developmental need that makes mask wearing unsafe or if mask wearing conflicts with their developmental or special education needs, they might be excused from this requirement. Make sure to work with families, your health consultant, medication professionals, and/or special education staff to create an individual plan and document their needs.
For children who have difficulty wearing a mask but don’t have a documented exception, be sure to work with families and staff to create a plan. Children must not be excluded from a program or isolated from peers if they are not able to comply with mask wearing, so a plan to help them learn this new skill will be especially important.
For more details on exceptions, see OEC Memo #29.
9. Do child care providers and youth camp staff have to wear masks?
According to the Governor’s Executive Order 7BB, essential employees must wear face coverings. All child care providers are considered essential employees, including youth camp staff and center and family child care providers. Coverings can include masks, cloth face coverings, or other fabric that creates a barrier over the wearer’s mouth and nose. Any of these types of coverings are useful to preventing the spread of COVID-19 when used in conjunction with social distancing measures. The Department of Economic Development publishes guidance related to Executive Orders and Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employees is available on their website.
It is important to handle the face covering carefully. The CDC guidance on use of face coverings also includes information on cleaning and sanitizing. These resources will help as well:
- Watch this video about wearing masks and gloves from Dr. Adam Scheiner
- Read this article about wearing face masks from NBC news
10. Do staff need to wear masks outside?
Staff is not required to wear a mask or cloth face covering if they are outdoors and can maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from both children and other staff.
However, staff should have masks or face coverings readily available when outside. That way, they can quickly put on a mask when they need to assist a child.
11. Can we use clear face coverings or face shields instead of face masks?
Clear face coverings are acceptable as long as they fit snugly against the sides of the face. A face shield without a face mask beneath it does not meet the requirement for face coverings. Face coverings shall:
11. Can we use clear face coverings or face shields instead of face masks?
Clear face coverings, including clear masks, are acceptable as long as they fit snugly against the sides of the face. A face shield without a face mask beneath it does not meet the requirement for face coverings. Face coverings shall:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Include multiple layers, if made of fabric
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
12. Will it be hard for children if all staff are wearing masks?
We all wish we could return to offering childcare in ways that we were used to, but during COVID-19 it is important that we all follow public health guidance. There are resources available to prepare children and help them get used to masks:
- KidsHealth: Helping Kids Get Used to Masks
- Conscious Discipline: Masks and Gloves — a Printable Story
Section D: Health and Safety-Vaccines
1. How will eligible child care and youth camp providers be prioritized for vaccine distribution?
As of March 1, 2021, child care workers in currently-operating programs are eligible to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine. Providers include currently-operating:
- Child care centers
- Group child care homes
- Family child care homes
- Youth camps
- Child care programs operated by a local board of education or municipality
Eligible staff include people who work in these settings, such as:
- Family child care home providers
- Substitutes and assistants
- Custodial and food service staff
- Bus drivers
- Administrative or other staff with direct care responsibility
Read Governor Lamont’s press release from February 22, 2021.
For more information on the vaccination process for child care and youth camp providers, visit OEC’s COVID-19 Vaccine page. For more information about the statewide vaccine rollout, visit the state’s COVID-19 vaccine page.
2. Can child care staff who live in another state be vaccinated in CT?
Staff who work in CT and live out of state are eligible to sign up for vaccines as of March 1st. The priority for Child Care is based on employment in CT, not residence.
If you live in CT but work in another state, your eligibility for the vaccine will be based upon the age band that you fall under. You would not be eligible based upon employment as a child care provider because you do not work in CT.
3. What identification do providers need to have available when they arrive for their appointment?
A work badge or paystub are ideal forms of identification to show that you are a child care provider. But other forms of identification such as a business card, a letter on program letterhead, or a child care license with your name on it will also show you are part of the program.
4. Will the vaccine be mandatory for children attending child care?
No, because the vaccine has not been approved for children. Only people age 16 and older can receive the vaccine.
5. Will staff be required to get the vaccinated?
The State of CT is not requiring the vaccine. Programs should consult their attorney for legal advice if they are considering a vaccination requirement for staff.
6. Will the requirements for group size and masks in Child Care change now that providers will be getting vaccinated?
CDC and DPH advise everyone to continue taking all precautions, even after they are vaccinated.
Section E: Program operations
1. What guidelines do child care programs need to follow in order to be open?
OEC collaborates with public health officials and the governor’s office to provide essential guidance for child care providers. For example, OEC Coronavirus memo #15 and memo #29 outline important requirements regarding group size and enhanced health procedures. See a full list of our COVID-19 memos.
In addition, OEC created guidance documents related to operating during the COVID-19 public health emergency for family home child care providers and for center and group home settings.
2. What is the guidance for preschools located in public schools?
During the COVID-19 public health emergency — when guidance is issued in response to changing circumstances and information — districts may be uncertain which guidance to follow.
Public schools may receive guidance about their preschool classrooms from the CT State Department of Education (CSDE), the CT Office of Early Childhood (OEC), and/or Head Start. In most instances, it is recommended that preschool in public school implement the more restrictive guidance offered.
But sometimes the more restrictive guidance is NOT appropriate for preschool children. For more information about preschool in public school, read COVID Guidance and Considerations for Preschool Located in Public Schools which is included as Addendum 2 of Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together.
3. What is the current allowable group size for infants, toddlers, or school-age children?
Per OEC Memo #29, the allowable group size in child care programs is 16 children. Up to 2 additional children will be allowed as of October 12, 2020, as long as there is enough space. In order to include the 2 additional children in the group, you must have at least 50 square feet per child within the space. Check the memo for a list of items that must be deducted when calculating the square footage. The outdoor play space requirement of at least 75 square feet per child for licensed child care centers and group child care homes has not been modified. Prior approval by OEC isn’t required to serve the additional two children, but space size will be considered when monitoring compliance with the group size requirement during licensing visits.
For infants and toddlers, a group size of 8 is still required per licensing regulations. OEC has not made any specific changes to the requirements pertaining to ratios in center-based programs.
Remember, other licensing requirements still apply and programs should still expect OEC inspections, even if they aren’t occurring on the same schedule right now.
4. The group size limit has been changed and we heard it could change again. How are decisions about group size being made?
There are many different strategies that can be put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In making decisions about which strategies should be required, public health officials consider several factors including the:
- Age of the population
- Space available to allow for appropriate distancing (and whether that space is indoors or outdoors)
- Frequency of close contacts (within 6 feet) that could reasonably be anticipated
- Specific activities and movements of groups
- Total time (hours/day and days/week) groups of children in care are likely to be interacting together
The Reopening Rules Committee considered the above factors and OEC — in consultation with the Department of Public Health — decided that these changes were appropriate at this time.
5. Is OEC considering changing the regulations that limit family child care homes to serving 2 infants and toddlers under age 2?
The agency is currently pursuing changes to the regulations that govern family child care homes. Such proposed changes currently include reducing the restriction of infants and toddlers to children under age 18 months vs. 2 years. Currently these draft regulations are under review and OEC is waiting for approval to have them released for a public hearing. The process for changing regulations takes time, and unfortunately it is not anticipated that these changes will take effect for at least 6 months or more. Given the current state of the COVID-19 emergency, this may further delay the process for approval.
6. What are the requirements for physical barriers between groups?
Each group of children must be in a separate space and must meet requirements related to group size. Spaces may be separated by a full or a half-wall or other physical barriers.
Licensing requirements regarding square footage are still in effect and must be considered when planning room and space arrangements.
- Rooms that are large enough to accommodate more than one group of children must be arranged so that a distance of 6 feet is maintained between groups of children.
- Up to 2 additional children may be served in a group (for a maximum of 18 children), as long as there is at least 50 square feet of indoor space for all children in that space.
7. How can we meet the need for childcare with limited group sizes?
We anticipate a decrease in the demand for childcare due to COVID-19. Community Collaboratives and/or local early childhood councils are encouraged to consider how they can coordinate supply and demand for care while complying with COVID-19 health and safety requirements. 211 is another resource that can be used to match families to available care in their area.
8. What do we do when local and state guidance conflict?
Programs should defer to the more conservative or stringent guidelines. For example, OEC requires that all childcare programs limit class size to no more than 16 children (or up to 18 with 50 square feet per child). But if a local health department has stricter guidance or determines that it is not safe for childcares in that region to be open, then programs must adhere to the local health department’s guidance.
9. What do we do if currently enrolled families have greater need for care than we can provide based on limited group size? How do we decide who to serve?
Making decisions like these are hard. There is no easy answer as this ultimately depends on your program’s structure, funding, capacity and families’ needs for care. It may help to set up a policy.
10. Are we allowed to combine children from different classrooms/cohorts at the beginning or the end of the day?
As much as possible, programs should keep children with a consistent group of children and adults. But we understand that program staffing patterns may make it necessary to have children from different classrooms together for short periods of time.
If that’s the case for your program, consider other strategies you can implement to help offset any risk. For example, you could have combined groups of children spend time outside or in a large space. During these times, you might stress social distancing and mask wearing.
Make sure to keep clear and consistent records of these combined classrooms/cohorts, just in case contact tracing is necessary. It is also a good idea to let families know if their child will be interacting with children and adults outside of their classroom, so they understand who their child will have contact with each day.
11. Where can I get information about my specific space and layout and how many children I can serve?
Get more specific information by calling OEC’s licensing staff at 860-500-4450 or 800-282-6063. Because staff are not working in the office right now, you’ll have to leave a message and someone will call you back. Please know that OEC staff are working hard to respond to the many questions received and will get back to you as soon as possible.
12. Do we need to replace our carpeting with hard floors?
No. Uncarpeted floors — like any hard surfaces — are ideal because they’re easier to sanitize. But CDC’s Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility contains guidance for cleaning soft surfaces.
13. Can different groups of children use the same bathroom?
Yes. But since programs will be working to keep children from different classrooms apart, providers need to make every effort to have children from different groups use shared bathrooms at different times and to sanitize surfaces between uses.
14. How do we handle use and cleaning of a shared playground?
Outdoor areas generally require normal routine cleaning and do not require disinfection. Spraying disinfectants on outdoor playgrounds is not an efficient use of disinfectant supplies and has not been proven to reduce the risk of COVID-19. You should continue existing cleaning and hygiene practices for outdoor areas including routinely cleaning high touch surfaces made of plastic or metal, such as grab bars and railings.
15. Are water tables, sandboxes, or other shared sensory materials allowed?
We encourage programs to provide individual basins of water or other sensory materials as an alternative to shared sand or water tables, if possible. If this is not feasible, implement enhanced hand washing and cleaning. Children should wash hands before and after use of sensory materials, and staff should change water in water tables between groups of children. Children may use outdoor sandboxes but must wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer before and after playing in the sand. Programs may choose to close or cover sandboxes located on the playground during COVID-19, if feasible.
16. Are families still charged fees or tuition when a center is closed or when they keep their child home due to COVID-19?
Programs may continue to charge family fees in accordance with existing program policies and current family fees when they are closed due to COVID-19. Programs need to consider the fiscal needs of their business but may reduce or waive family fees, or implement a hardship policy, due to the COVID-19 emergency. Families that are able to continue to pay family fees are encouraged to do so to support their program’s ability to cover ongoing costs (e.g., payroll, monthly building expenses), remain in business, and provide care after this emergency has ended. Open dialogue between providers and parents to address fee payments during this emergency is essential. Read additional guidance regarding family fees and some tips for talking about fee policies and agreements.
17. How should we address ventilation?
Experts now recognize that having good ventilation is an important part of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Programs should understand their current systems and consider how they might be adjusted to provide the most benefit. There is also specific guidance for buildings that do not have central ventilation systems, such as opening windows and positioning fans to exhaust air out of the window.
For more specific detailed guidance regarding ventilation, please review OEC Memo #29. Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Healthy Buildings also offers important guidance on healthy buildings, classrooms, activities, health policies, and more.
Section E: Staffing and visitors
1. What are staffing requirements with limited group sizes?
The following licensing regulations regarding staffing, ratios, and group sizes have not been waived and are still in effect.
- At least 2 staff members who are 18 years of age or older must be present on the premises when one or more children are present.
- The ratio for preschool is one 1 adult to 10 ten children.
- Infant/toddler classrooms must have no more than 8 children under the age of 3 and must maintain a ratio of 1 adult for every 4 infants/toddlers.
In order to limit the number of people that individuals are exposed to, programs may want to consider having 2 staff assigned to each group of children on a regular basis.
2. How can we maintain consistent groups, meet staff requirements and provide a full day of care? What guidance is available regarding shifts, breaks, and substitutes?
The goal of limiting group size is to keep the number of people that each person is interacting with low. The best ways of achieving this goal will vary from program to program. These ideas may be helpful in creating a plan for your program:
- Stagger start and end times and group children according to the hours of care needed. For example, one classroom may operate from 8 am to 3 pm, while another classroom runs from 10 am to 6 pm.
- Encourage families to use only the hours of care that they need and to stagger their own schedules when possible to limit their need for childcare outside of the home.
- Consider an adjusted schedule in which 2 teachers overlap for a portion of the day and cover each other’s breaks.
- Have substitutes available in case teachers are sick and consider identifying specific substitutes for classrooms or age groups. Keep in mind that substitutes, like teachers, need to follow all Department of Economic Development Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employees per Executive Order 7BB.
- Reach out to other open programs for ideas on staffing and scheduling.
3. How should we handle people who visit multiple sites, such as managers who oversee more than one location?
Whenever possible, limit the visitors to your program. However, it is important to consider overall safety and it may be necessary to have maintenance workers, managers, inspectors, or monitors visit your program.
If at all possible, schedule visitors for times when children are not present or have visitors stay in separate spaces. When it is necessary for visitors to be in the same space with children, they should take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
4. How and when can staff complete CPR, First Aid, and other required trainings?
Staff trainings including first aid and CPR that expire during the declared state of emergency are acceptable to fulfill the requirements. This waiver is in effect until November 9, 2020, unless extended or modified. It is recommended that staff explore opportunities to complete training by contacting individual training providers to determine if and when course offerings will be available.
When this waiver ends, OEC will consider a provider’s efforts to secure training along with the availability of training when evaluating compliance. Providers are encouraged to document efforts to complete training and keep on file to share with OEC staff during licensing inspections.
5. When will fingerprinting be required as a part of the background check process for new staff again?
Effective August 3, 2020, the background check process must include fingerprinting. OEC Memo #9 issued on March 20, 2020 temporarily waived the requirement to submit fingerprints. Now that fingerprinting has restarted at many locations, this important part of promoting child safety can resume. For more information about the requirement see OEC Memo # 27.
6. What financial support is available for the fingerprinting process?
OEC will use federal funding to cover fingerprint processing fees for all OEC-required criminal history record checks from August 3 until December 31, 2020 (or until all of the funding has been used, if that happens first). Depending on where you get your fingerprints taken, there may still be a collection fee.
7. Where can I have my fingerprints taken?
- Livescan Fingerprinting Services through the United Way of CT are scheduled to resume in late July. Fingerprints collected digitally and transmitted electronically are accepted at a much higher rate than ink fingerprints. There is no collection fee to have fingerprints collected through the United Way of CT. To register for a digital fingerprint appointment, complete a DCF Authorization Form online and schedule an appointment. At first, all sessions will be held at the United Way of CT headquarters in Rocky Hill, but work is underway to add more locations.
- Some local police departments resumed fingerprint collection services beginning in late May. Contact your local police department for more information about this process and any fees charged for collection.
- The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) Fingerprint Identification Unit resumed fingerprinting on June 15, 2020. For more information visit DESPP’s website.
Section F: Business and economic supports
1. What supports are available for child care businesses?
The OEC CTCARES for Child Care Businesses offers support to child care programs to operate during COVID-19. This “Care Package” includes a variety of subsidies, trainings, and other opportunities. Learn about who qualifies and accessing these supports.
Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) offers free business assistance to the OEC’s licensed family homes, group homes, and centers. Please contact WBDC for support on all things business – from applying for financial assistance (including forgivable loans like PPP) to reporting your COVID-19 income correctly to getting started on a business health plan.
In addition, the State of Connecticut is dedicated to helping small businesses, and has set up a resource page with information about helpful programs, bridge loans, and more. Find help on the state’s COVID-19 business resources page.
2. Is there any additional support available for licensed family child care providers?
We recognize that COVID-19 has been a challenge for family child care homes. CTCARES for Family Child Care is an initiative from the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) designed to help licensed family child care home providers during the COVID-19 emergency.
3. Can child care staff apply for unemployment benefits? What if we are an in-home facility?
All providers, regardless of setting, can apply for unemployment benefits consideration. Everyone should refer to the Connecticut Department of Labor’s frequently asked questions, which are updated regularly.
4. How will my program be impacted if we had to lay off employees and they are collecting unemployment?
Individual program circumstances vary greatly. It is suggested that you refer to the Department of Labor (DOL) FAQ. There’s a section specific to the Federal Unemployment Stimulus Programs, which contains detail and guidance about the following:
- Federal Unemployment Pandemic Compensation (FPUC) — commonly referred to as the extra $600 per week or “supersizing” weekly benefits beginning April 25, 2020
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — unemployment benefits expanded to designated individuals not previously eligible (i.e., family child care providers) with applications starting by April 30, 2020
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) — providing additional weeks of unemployment benefits, with a start date to be determined
In addition, you can read frequently asked questions about unemployment insurance for employers.
5. My business is struggling and I was not able to get one of the small business loans. What can I do?
The state’s COVID-19 business resources page is updated regularly to reflect federal and state resources to support small business.
Small businesses can also get help from the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC). To get free counseling, contact WBDC. You can also see a list of potential funding opportunities on their website — along with links to worksheets to help you with key documents required for filing applications.
Many programs will have multiple phases of support. If you were not able to access one opportunity, be prepared for when they reopen and or other opportunities might become available.
6. We are concerned about liability if staff, children, or families get sick. Where can we find guidance about this?
The ProBono Partnership has guidance: Connecticut Child Care Providers: How to Minimize Liability Related to COVID-19.
Section G: Family child care homes
1. How is OEC addressing family child care home providers?
OEC is committed to all providers, and family child care homes are vitally important at this time. Family child care home providers are included in all of our discussions and plans. Note that, unless otherwise specified, the responses to questions in this FAQ apply to both center-based and family child care home providers.
2. Are there any required changes to operations for family child care home providers?
Providers should follow OEC licensing requirements including but not limited to capacity and infant/toddler restriction. They should follow CDC guidance and OEC Memo # 15 (e.g., health screenings, cleaning surfaces at least daily and washing your and the child’s hands for at least 20 seconds with soap as outlined in the memo).
3. Have there been any changes to the number of children who can be served in a family child care home?
Family child care homes may continue to serve up to 6 children who are not in school full-time. Per OEC Memo #22, family child care homes may also serve up to 3 additional children otherwise enrolled in school full-time, without an OEC-approved assistant or substitute caregiver present until November 9, 2020, unless extended or modified.