The COVID-19 pandemic has made our nation aware that providing child care is an essential service which fulfills a critical need for the families of essential workers. While emergency child care programs here in NJ are operating under new health and safety standards to care for the children of essential workers, Central Jersey Family Health Consortium’s (CJFHC) Child Care Health Consultants (CCHCs) have been diligent in supporting child care providers with implementation of the health and safety guidance during this public health crisis.
The Child Care Health Consultants Program supports child care providers by promoting optimal health and safety in child care settings, based on the National Health and Safety Best Practice Standards. There are four regional Child Care Health Consultants available to provide Child Care Health Consultation throughout NJ. The Child Care Health Consultants provide free professional development trainings on a variety of health and safety topics, including preventing the spread of communicable disease, child safety, medication administration, working with children with special needs, managing food allergies, nutrition, physical activity, personal care routines, and more. They also provide online and phone consultation on health and safety, onsite technical assistance, assistance in the development of health and safety policies and procedures, and provide resources and referrals. The Child Care Health Consultants have fostered linkages and collaborations, and serve on health committees and coalitions regarding the health and safety of children. They also support the Grow NJ Kids Quality Rating Improvement System, and participate and present at statewide conferences/events. The CCHC Program at Central Jersey Family Health Consortium is funded by the NJ Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Reauthorization.
During the outbreak, the CCHCs have been proactive in their role to support best practice standards in health and safety in child care. Our CCHCs began following the worldwide pandemic, and established a multi-state CCHC Workgroup to collaborate virtually with other CCHC Program Leaders nationwide. The Child Care Health Consultants have been actively reviewing NJ’s statewide guidance, as well as other state guidance, policy brief documents, national and credible resources, updated national guidance, and continue to participate in professional development webinars on COVID-19. They contributed to documents that were presented to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and to the National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness (NCECHW) to advocate for guidance and best practice standard revisions. The CCHCs started providing resources on the coronavirus to the NJ child care community prior to the first positive case in NJ. We continue to share updated credible resources on COVID-19 to the child care providers throughout this pandemic.
After the Guidance for NJ Child Care was released on March 25th, 2020, the CCHCs took the initiative to support the child care providers by presenting a webinar to review and discuss both the” State and National CDC Health & Safety Guidance for Child Care Programs That Remain Open during COVID-19. Due to the overwhelming response, the webinars are presented twice a week. The virtual forum provides the opportunity to discuss implementation, answer questions, address challenges, share creative strategies with directors, family child care providers Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, Grow NJ Kids Quality Improvement Specialists and Technical Assistance Specialists, and other members of the child care community.