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What you need to know about emergency child care centers, and who’s eligible for them

Officials say each emergency program will follow strict safety guidelines and will be available to those working the front lines.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks during coronavirus media briefing at the Statehouse. Sam Doran, State House News Service

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After ordering all early childhood education programs across the state closed to slow the coronavirus’ spread, Governor Charlie Baker released an eight-page list on Monday detailing which emergency child care programs have been approved to stay open, giving those on the front lines priority access to childcare. 

Baker outlined who’s considered essential to fighting the pandemic in a statement, saying priority would be given “to health care workers, essential state and human service workers, COVID-19 health workers, grocery store employees, emergency response personnel, law enforcement, transportation and infrastructure workers, sanitation workers, DCF-involved families, and families living in shelters.”

The Executive Office of Education’s communications director, Colleen Quinn, told Boston.com in an email that the department is currently working to realign its policies to match Monday’s executive order, which closed all non-essential businesses and better defined who qualifies as an essential worker.

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While the emergency programs are now available, Baker urged families to exhaust all other options before dropping their kids off, noting how non-group care is safer. 

The commonwealth is paying for the exempt care programs, according to Baker’s release, and each program is required to follow strict guidelines as recommended by the CDC and the Department of Public Health. 

“Many of these guidelines are still in development and will be communicated to all boards of health once finalized,” the release read. 

On Friday, the DPH and Massachusetts’ Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) released a draft version of their health and safety protocol, which all exempt emergency care centers are required to follow.

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The draft offers a checklist to determine whether or not a facility meets their requirements, and an illustrated sheet on how to wash your hands.

It also states that children in the programs will be asked to practice social distancing and frequently wash their hands. Staff members will be required to check their temperatures every day before work and are encouraged to also check the children’s temperatures.

Staff are asked not to re-wear the clothing they worked in until it’s been laundered at the warmest temperature possible.

The EEC also stated that emergency childcare workers will receive priority COVID-19 testing if they experience any symptoms.

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Emergency programs are either currently licensed child care facilities, or new programs near or inside medical facilities, according to Baker’s order

The EEC also reviewed applications for each emergency child care program, conducting expedited background record checks on teachers and other staff, before they were approved for service. 

Parents unsure of whether or not they qualify for the free child care services can refer to an enrollment process flow chart found here.

Any parents who need access to a local emergency care center can fill out this form and bring it with them when dropping their kids off.

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