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City of Eugene, YMCA, School Districts Provide Free Childcare Across Lane County

Brian Bull


The combination of school closures, and the need for essential workers to be at their jobs, has increased the need for child care. Now, the Eugene YMCA has partnered with the city and five local school districts to provide free childcare for children of essential workers.

The City of Eugene, YMCA employees, and staff across the 4J, Bethel, South Lane, Fern Ridge, and Springfield school districts are working to help essential workers in urban and rural communities who need childcare.

Springfield Public Schools is also part of the partnership but, at this time, provides child care for first responders and health care professionals only.

The program will care for infants and kids up to age 12.

Eugene YMCA CEO Brian Steffen said he’s proud to be part of a collaboration between innovative community and business leaders.

“At the YMCA we always believe in innovating and partnering to address the needs in our community,” said Steffen. “And right now, the childcare need for these families who need to go to work and who are sacrificing for our community is so essential.”

According to the Eugene YMCA website, people with the following jobs are eligible for free childcare.

·        Hospitals and health care

·        First responders (Fire, Police, EMT)

·        Grocery stores 

·        Banks and Credit Unions

·        Pharmacies

·        Take-out/delivery from restaurants and bars

·        Pet stores

·        Gas stations

Each child will receive pre-packaged meals and snacks in order to reduce potential food preparation contamination.

The program is practicing social distancing by having children sit six feet away whenever possible. They are also limiting childcare monitors to groups of ten, and they are working to keep people in the same groups each day, in order to minimize the spread of new germs.

The facilities have nurses—provided by school districts—who take the temperature of kids and staff members each day, and monitor any symptoms.

“If we notice any symptoms with staff or the children, we're contacting households or we're sending those staff home immediately so that we can mitigate any potential exposure to any symptoms,” said Steffen.

As of now, the childcare facilities are not at capacity, and can serve up to 289 children. But there is a possibility the need for services could expand.

“As we've talked with some of the hospitals for example, and the city, they've sent surveys out to their families asking how many of their employees might have a need,” said Steffen. “And that number is far more than we're currently serving. I think that that number is somewhere around 600-1,000 families [that] could need childcare services.”

But they are working to make sure there will be availability as the COVID-19 outbreak progresses.

“No one entity can meet this need on their own,” said Steffen. “And I think it's exciting that these partners have come together to innovate, to share resources, [and] to share expertise.”

Emergency and essential workers can register their child online at the Eugene YMCA website. 

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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