Kids don’t get sick only on the weekends
It’s the morning of a major presentation, and your child greets you with a low fever and a runny nose. There is no way she will be able to go to day care today, and you have one hour and 10 minutes before you are expected at work. You have a few backup sitters, but they have children of their own whom they won’t want exposed to your child’s sniffles or they live too far for you to connect with them and still make it to work on time. What are your options?
Until recently, not many. But there is a growing trend among child-care facilities: centers for sick kids. Born from the use of separate sick bays for ill children at regular day cares, there has been a recent increase in these centers. And for many Solo Moms, they are welcome relief.
How they work
Sick-kid centers are usually staffed by at least one registered nurse. Children range in age from four months to four years, though some centers accept a wider range of ages. Kids are divided into rooms depending on their illness. Typically, a contagious child will be given a room of his or her own while other children who have minor illnesses or who are not contagious can play together. Children are grouped according to their type of illness to avoid new exposures.
Centers take careful measures to guarantee the healthiest environment possible. Toys are disinfected after each use. Children and caregivers must wash their hands frequently, and rooms and all common areas are disinfected each night after closing.
It’s not unusual
According to Jacqueline W. Stewart, a pediatrician and president of Huggs & Kisses Sick Child Care in Birmingham, Alabama, approximately 350,000 children of working parents are sick each day in the United States.
“It’s both puzzling and unacceptable that we trumpet the importance of family values as a society, yet we have fewer policies in place to aid working families than any other advanced industrial nation in the world,” says Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families.
We do have family leave, but that is in place to care for a newly born or adopted child. Family leave can also be used for care of a very serious illness. What we do not have is anything in place for time off to deal with the more routine, short-term illnesses that are part of childhood, such as the flu or ear infections. And with more than one-third of a million kids waking up sick each morning, Solo Moms need solutions.
But shouldn’t I be home with my sick child?
The Solo Moms I spoke to who have used these services reported—overwhelmingly—a sense of relief that their child is being taken care of by medical professionals. Should the illness turn more serious, a trained eye is there to spot any complications and take immediate action. Knowing their child was in good hands made them able to focus on work. And centers are used to frequent check-in calls.
Where to find sick-child centers
- You can call your local hospital to ask if it sponsors a sick-child center or knows of any locally. Some day-care centers offer sick-child care.
- Child Care Aware offers referral agencies and lists of local resources, and has a referral hotline. You can call 1-800-424-2246 to inquire about sick and backup centers.
- Rainbow Station is a comprehensive child-care facility that provides care for mildly and chronically ill children. It has several locations in Virginia.
- Under the Weather is a sick-child-care company that provides in-home and child-care center services in Minnesota.
- If you live in the Birmingham, Alabama, area, contact Huggs & Kisses Sick Child Care at 205-324-8447.
All centers have preregistration materials. It’s a wise idea to have your child preregistered in the event you will use the services. It can save precious minutes in the morning and make you much less frazzled.
No Solo Mom should have to make the choice between her child and her livelihood. With a little planning, even an unexpectedly feverish day can be navigated smoothly.
Anne Spollen lives happily as a Solo Mom to three kids and works as an author, a writer, and a college teacher.
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