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In time of crisis, day care families find a way to help each other

Like many parents these days, Ryan and Kelly Rosiek of Eden are working from home. Like many parents working at home these days, they unexpectedly have their children home with them, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But unlike many parents, they still have two salaries coming in. So the Rosieks are trying to help another family that might not be so fortunate.

The Rosieks could pay half of their normal rate to keep their son Sam in the A Leap in Learning center in Hamburg. But they are paying the full tuition rate of $230 per week so that another child can retain a spot in the center.

“With everything going on, we wanted to help anyway we could. They’re kind of like a family to us and they take care of our kids more than we do sometimes," said Kelly Rosiek, who works as compliance director at M&T Bank. "We wanted to make sure that when everything was said and done, we could go back there.”

Sherry Phillips, president of A Leap in Learning, said the Rosieks are one of four families that reached out to say they were willing to pay their full tuition to help another family.

"These families emailed us and suggested we use it on our staff, our programming, for parents who need help," Phillips said.

Day care centers often charge placeholder fees that ensure a spot in the program. Parents who have their children at home – like the Rosieks – must pay that fee to ensure there is a spot for their child when the center reopens. In their case, the fee is 50% of the normal cost.

Kelly Rosiek took her son Sam out of day care since she and her husband Ryan are both working from home. Here, Sam watches his mom draw. Kelly's laptop is set up to work while keeping Sam entertained. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“That’s been a concern to parents through this process," said Kaley Donaldson, communications director for Child Care Resource Network, a referral and training center located on Hertel Avenue. "We’re in uncharted territory for providers and parents alike. We are recommending if parents are finding this an undue burden to open up a dialogue with their child care providers.

“Providers are still paying staff to be there. Their policy usually is that some fee is still paid, not only to hold that spot, but so they can more accurately determine their revenue week to week,” Donaldson said.

One of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive orders issued in mid-March dealt with the state’s willingness to relax ratio requirements that are used to guarantee safety in child care.

Wait lists also play a role in the decision to charge parents placeholder fees, Donaldson said.

“Programs have wait lists for infants that are months, even one year, long,” Donaldson said. “There are people who desperately need these spots, so providers are trying to ensure parents are not just taking advantage by saying they need a full-time slot but only dropping off their child once a week.”

Waiting lists exist at all three Leap in Learning child care centers in the Hamburg area, Phillips said. The centers serve nearly 300 children ages 6 weeks to 12 years, and employ 70 workers.

“We have waiting lists that go over a year at all of our centers. You can’t find a spot for an infant or a toddler; it’s virtually impossible,” she said.

Charging the placeholder fee is a necessary policy for day care centers, especially during this volatile time in the child care industry, Phillips said.

“If we don’t secure something to pay our bills, many (child care) businesses will close their doors,” Phillips said. “It’s important that we’re thinking about when this is all over, because this will end, and when it does, we need to make sure that the smaller independently owned child care centers are there in the end."

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