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As we enter the seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand that this is a stressful time for families everywhere and Santa Monica households are no exception. Some families are supervising their children’s virtual learning while working from home or job hunting. Without the resources to hire or access one-on-one tutors, many parents are worried about their children falling behind in school. Others have enrolled their children in day care or in-person remote learning programs, despite personal reservations. And we cannot overlook families that are advocating for children with unique emotional or special education learning needs. Providing families with the resources they need to survive the pandemic, including safe childcare, mental health care, and academic assessment, is critical to wellbeing, stemming learning loss, and driving economic recovery by allowing parents to work.

Childcare is Open (Ages 0-5)

For families with children under age 5, Connections for Children reports that there are over 120 openings at licensed childcare programs across Santa Monica, including infant spaces. As an essential service, childcare providers were never mandated to close. Some have been open for the duration of the pandemic, while others re-opened in recent months after retooling their spaces and operating protocols.

“Many parents are unaware of the strict safety guidelines under which all licensed childcare providers are operating, as mandated by the LA County Department of Public Health. These protocols include daily health screenings, mask wearing for everyone age 2 and older, and small, stable groups,” reports Ivy Chang, a Senior Administrative Analyst for the City of Santa Monica and the lead for the Economic Recovery Working Group on Childcare. “Providers have adapted to stricter regulations for cleaning and infection control, and found creative solutions to help children keep their distance from one another. I encourage parents to look up these guidelines on the County website and ask providers if they have any questions about how they are being implemented.”

The early childhood field has been a model for other sectors that are re-opening, and LA County has noted that there have only been ten reported COVID-19 outbreaks across LA County in licensed childcare facilities since the start of the pandemic (defined as three or more positive cases in one location within two weeks).

In-Person Remote Learning Programs

For families whose kids need all-day supervision while parents work, or simply a quiet place with reliable wi-fi, over 10 local childcare providers and tutoring services have launched in-person programs to support distance learning across Santa Monica. For a comprehensive roundup, refer to the listings. These facilities, along with many others are still accepting applications and provide your child with academic support.

Enhanced Childcare Referrals

Since the start of the pandemic, Connections for Children (CFC)–a non-profit childcare resource and referral agency–has been busy providing low income and essential worker families with “Enhanced Referrals.” This means that Connections is in regular communication with all licensed childcare providers in their area and only refer families when providers have personally verified that they are accepting new children. This saves time and the usual hassle of contacting providers, only to be told they are full or, worse yet, not receive a call-back at all. So far, 93 Santa Monica families have participated.

Shirley Perez, Community Partnerships Coordinator at Connections for Children, is the best person to contact about licensed childcare in Santa Monica — (310) 452-3325, ext. 260, or email shirleyp@cfc-ca.org.

Financial Aid for Childcare

This fall, financial aid for childcare is available through the  for low income households and families with essential workers that must report to work in person. The exact value of the voucher depends on your household income, the age of your child, and whether you choose a center or a family childcare. Parents self-certify their need for care, and, once approved, select a care provider to contract with CFC for subsidized childcare through December 30.

Complete the application form at: https://ccrc.jotform.com/202266408415956

For questions, contact Connections for Children’s Adaly Landeros, (310) 452-3325 ext. 246 or, Karla Islas, ext. 247.

Free and Sliding Scale Mental Health Resources

Finally, children and youth of all ages are not immune from the stressors of our brave new world. As children are interacting with fewer adults, there are fewer opportunities to make referrals for needed supports. Families with children who are struggling emotionally in any way are strongly encouraged to seek mental health support, now most commonly offered via telehealth. Locally, Family Service of Santa Monica (FSSM) and Providence Saint John’s-Child and Family Development Center (PSJ) are contracted with the LA County Department of Mental Health to offer counseling to children, teens, and families. Both offer individual counseling and psychotherapy services, parenting support, school-based mental health services, and specialized programs for families with children aged 0-5.

Typically an intake coordinator will field your call and ask you a series of questions to assess your child’s situation. Mental health services at FSSM and PSJ are covered by Medi-Cal. FSSM also offers a “sliding scale fee” based on monthly income.

Free Virtual Tutoring

The Santa Monica Public Library is currently offering free, virtual tutoring through a program called Brainfuse. Brainfuse provides elementary through high school students with a virtual one-on-one tutoring platform that assists students with math, science, reading and writing, and social studies from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily in both English and Spanish.

More info: smpl.org/Brainfuse

Here is a complete list of local resources.