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Oregon announces emergency background checks, quicker training for childcare providers

PMG FILE PHOTO - A group of students at Grace Christian Children's Center in Columbia County pose for a picture after a coloring session. Oregon announced tighter restrictions for existing daycare centers, while also announcing it would rush background checks and training for new prospective childcare workers, in an effort to create emergency daycare options for essential workers.The state says it is relaxing some processes and expediting others, in an effort to expand childcare centers to meet demand throughout the state.

New guidelines released Wednesday, March 18, by the Oregon Department of Education's Early Learning Division, the agency responsible for granting licenses to childcare centers, will clamp down on certain operations at daycare centers, while expediting the ability for others to get cleared to work as childcare providers.

The state says it's a move to serve "families who provide health, safety, and other essential services to their communities."

Daycare centers must be licensed by the state, and any person working as a childcare provider must pass a background check and undergo safety training, with exceptions for those providing temporary care, or babysitting three or fewer children.

Those processes will be quicker than usual.

"(Office of Child Care) is creating an expedited process for providers to stand up new, emergency child care facilities to serve medical personnel, emergency responders, and others who are providing essential services where the need for child care exists," an announcement from the Early Learning Division states.

What's changing?

In an effort to adhere to recently announced social distancing mandates and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, daycare centers will be asked to limit the number of children in their care. The state is advising daycare centers to screen everyone who enters the building by taking their temperature and checking for a cough, while excluding any staff or children who've have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Children must now be given lunches on staggered meal times and must be fed via bagged or individually prepared lunches, according to guidance from ODE, the governor's office and the Oregon Health Authority.

Additionally, parents are now allowed to remain outside the building for child pick-up and drop-offs.

"The rules allow us to have some more flexibility to continue serving families," said ELD media representative Melanie Mesaros. Mesaros emphasized that the new provisions are meant to allow those who cannot work remotely to have access to childcare options.

"Families for whom childcare is not necessary right now should keep their children at home," Mesaros added.

Why the changes?

Daycare centers were told they could stay open, despite recent orders from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office to limit all gatherings of 25 people or more and shut down schools until late April. Federal guidance recommends against congregating in groups of 10 or more, with the exception of essential activities.

While extra precautions are being implemented to prevent the spread of disease, the Early Learning Division said it wants to allow for the emergency creation of additional childcare providers, to serve people like healthcare workers and other essential workers while schools remain closed.

To do that, some processes and protocols will be relaxed.

An executive order from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office Tuesday includes a provision to "waive, suspend or amend existing administrative rules pertaining to child care," while allowing for "emergency child care" to be established.

According to the Early Learning Division, the state will implement an emergency background check process, expedited online safety training, including CPR and First Aid, as well as expedited case-by-case exceptions to state licensing requirements for daycare centers.

That could mean a new line of work for thousands of Oregonians who quickly found themselves unemployed with the rapid closing or reduction in services at bars and restaurants.

"These changes will allow providers more flexibility to continue serving parents doing critical work during this state of emergency," said Miriam Calderon, director of the Early Learning System. "I want to stress that child care providers are serving as first responders, and families for whom child care is not absolutely necessary should keep their children at home to ensure these caregivers can serve those most in need."

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