After working in child care for more than three decades, Lorraine Trulsen thought she had seen it all, but six weeks ago the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the world works for the director at Heritage Park Childcare Centre in Mission.
“Child care is essential. Families can’t function if they don’t have access to child care they can trust,” Trulsen says.
May is Child Care Month in B.C., honouring the work of thousands of child care professionals throughout the province.
With only one hospital in Mission, Trulsen reached out to the families who attend her centre to see what their child-care needs were and how she could help parents who are working on the front lines fighting COVID-19.
When two nurses responded saying they needed child care, Trulsen didn’t hesitate to keep her doors open.
“This is the right thing to do – to be there for the first responders, nurses and other essential service workers who need care for their children,” Trulsen said.
She did, however, change the way the centre cares for kids, establishing new processes to ensure children, parents and staff stay healthy.
The morning drop-off routine now includes hand-washing, complete with a 20-second song to make sure the kids have fun while stopping the spread.
While those processes help to ensure the physical health of the children at her centre, Trulsen wants to make sure she is also looking after their emotional health, saying child care is about the whole connection, including the social one.
She started a private Facebook group for families at her centre so kids and parents who are no longer attending in person can say hi, share photos and videos, and keep in touch with their friends and educators.
Trulsen says it has been valuable for her staff, too. They love coming into work and feel like they are part of a big family. As a community-based centre, those enrolled at Heritage Park are part of that family. Staying connected, even virtually, is important for all of them.
“I think this situation has shown parents how tough child care can be,” Trulsen said. “It seems like everyone has realized that child care is essential. My staff, they’re the heroes.”
Trulsen said it’s been heartwarming to see the community come together during these challenging times and wants essential service workers in Mission to know, “If you need care, we are here. Our centre is your centre.”
In November 2018, Heritage Park Childcare Centre was selected to deliver low-cost child care as a Childcare BC Universal Prototype Site, including 12 infant/toddler spaces and 25 spaces for children aged three to five years.
In response to COVID-19, the province has developed a child-care referral system to help parents in essential service roles find licensed child care nearby.
Parents can fill out a form to identify their need for urgent care at: gov.bc.ca/essential-service-child-care or by calling 1-888 338-6622 and selecting Option 4.