Childcare for working parents and families has always been an issue, and now it’s become even more so. As part of the multiple crises affecting the country now, someone’s got to watch the kids, safely and affordably.
Whether parents are working from home, or have been designated as essential workers, on top of the urgent need to do their jobs, they now have the added worry about their kids’ physical and mental health.
In addition, the pandemic, with many losing their jobs, has people thinking about what might be an “easy-to-start” new business. That realization led PathStone Enterprise Center, Inc. (PECI), through its small business support program, BizUp Buffalo!, to develop a free webinar series for childcare operators and providers during COVID-19.
The webinars conclude their live presentations on Saturday, August 29; they are also available to view ongoing for free at the BizUp Buffalo! YouTube channel. Each one is designed to help established or new childcare business operators—whether home- or center-based—with information, tools, and interpreting and meeting new safety regulations. (To register for Saturday’s webinar, click here.)
The series is run by Yasmin Mattox, CEO of Arkatecht, a company she founded in 2017. Mattox, a native New Yorker now based in Rochester, is also a well-regarded advocate for parents, and particularly mothers.
Arkatecht is a platform where working parents can find both professional development and the childcare they need while attending any events or classes, etc., they sign up for. Mattox has several platforms within the Arkatecht brand that she has Yasmin Mattox, CEO and founder of Arkatecht, leads webinars for established and aspiring childcare providers.modified to meet needs of parents since the pandemic struck: Advent Families, a newer concept, matches working parents with childcare providers and early childhood education specialists to make homeschooling and hybrid schooling function for their children and their career.
“Since COVID, and all the shutdowns, a lot of things, including professional development for working parents, have fallen by the wayside,” says Mattox. “The priority becomes, how are you going to best support your kids? Who is going to take care of them?”
For parents, the issues of childcare and work were complex even before COVID, says Mattox, who has three young daughters. “If you don’t have childcare, you can’t work; one is not more important than the other,” says Mattox. “And there are additional layers now.”
Pre-pandemic, while thinking about childcare and working families, Mattox says that she’d already begun considering how she might work with childcare providers.
“We knew people would be interested in the basics, those just starting their businesses, and some who had already been operating and could use additional resources,” says Mattox. “We also wanted to help them modernize using free or low-cost technology and software tools.”
The series also gives information about how to become a registered and licensed business, and how to get and stay organized.
“It was always a good idea to be organized,” says Mattox. “Where are your business papers, your LLC? Whether you’re home- or center-based, know where your insurance paperwork, children’s records, medical paperwork, releases, allergies, etc., are. And now, with COVID, it’s become more clear that providers need that and more.”
“In addition to providing the free small business series, PathStone is looking at ways to support childcare providers financially with costs such as utilities and liability insurance,” notes Dionne Jacques, PECI’s deputy director.
Rosa Marie, the president and founder of Marvelous Minds Academy in Rochester, attended a few of the free webinars, because, she says, she’s a “resource junkie.” Already in business for five years previous to the pandemic, she’d been in the Rosa Marie, founder and president of Marvelous Minds Academy, a childcare provider in Rochester, NY.process of shifting her model to accommodate requests and the reality of her clients’ lives.
“Modern families and parents look to childcare differently; they need more than the traditional ‘9 to 5’ options,” says Marie. “A lot of our clients work evenings and overnights. We needed a new model both in terms of rates and revenue, and what kind of commitments we could ask from parents.”
After some adjustments, like lowering the rates, and tweaking her contract lengths (parents can sign up and pay for a week, a month, or a year, at varying rates, for example), Marie and Marvelous Minds now offer “bridge care,” allowing parents to schedule care when they need it. After a pause to regroup plans in response to the pandemic, the business opened in its first brick-and-mortar recently.
Mattox agrees that childcare providers need to market themselves to parents and families in new ways, showing that they understand and are prepared for the unique obstacles that we are all facing.
“It’s very difficult to plan for what you think will happen, and for the contingencies,” Mattox adds. “It’s kind of funny, but since the pandemic, I’ve come to appreciate insurance, and the complexities that go into risk management. With a public health threat looming over us, while redesigning childcare, even with seemingly harmless and fun things, we have to ask, ‘what can we do to further de-risk this for everybody?’ We need to be of service for parents who need the care of providers, and also for the children.”
That the insurance information shared throughout the series was so relevant was a surprise to Marie, the childcare operator, as well. “Childcare business owners are used to thinking about things like hours of operation and how much are we going to charge,” said Marie. “Yasmin’s series drilled down into learning how to mitigate risk, which is something we don’t think about as much.”
Mattox points out that a majority of working people have school-age kids, and that employers are also realizing how much they need their employees to have reliable childcare. “I’ve had significant and meaningful interest from employers trying to figure out how they can support their workforce at scale,” she says.
Marie wholeheartedly agrees, adding, “We have a few corporate members at Marvelous Mind Academy, but the childcare industry overall has an immediate and high need to partner with more employers to offer employer-supported childcare centers.”