Allorah Johnson, left, shows off her shoes to Little Owl’s Day Care owner Peggy Cordwell at her day care in Norway on Wednesday morning. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

With businesses in Oxford and Franklin counties starting to reopen, some parents are struggling to find adequate child care options.

Little Owl’s Day Care owner Peggy Cordwell talks with Vivian Chicoine while they play outside Wednesday morning at the Norway day care center. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Schools are still closed and several child care centers shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peggy Cordwell, who runs Little Owls Child Care in Norway, has spoken to several of those parents who are scrambling to find a safe place to leave their children for the day, especially if their usual location is still closed.

“Some parents feel panicked if they have to go back to work and their day care isn’t open,” Cordwell said. “It’s tough for the parents.

“I can imagine it can be frustrating,” she added.

But help may be on the way.

Cordwell said she knows of at least a couple child care facilities reopening in the Norway area within the next two to three weeks. The Maine Department for Health and Human Services expects more child care centers to reopen throughout the state.

“Currently, a majority of Maine’s licensed child care providers remain open, with more indicating that they plan to reopen later this month or in June,” Jackie Farwell, director of Communications for the Maine Department for Health and Human Services, said. “The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services has worked with child care partners to match working parents, including those serving in essential response roles, with providers who remain open at this time.”

Maine DHHS lists six child care centers open throughout Oxford County and three in Franklin County. Two of the three in Franklin County are in Farmington. Androscoggin County has 20 child care centers open, including seven in Lewiston and four in Lisbon.

Little Owl’s Day Care owner Peggy Cordwell talks with Vivian Chicoine while they play outside Wednesday morning at the Norway day care center. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Little Owls Child Care in Norway has remained open during the pandemic, and its clients have not changed. Procedures, however, have changed, including state mandated temperature checks daily and frequent hand-washing.

“We’re doing a lot more disinfecting and sanitizing,” Cordwell said. “We now ask parents to stay in the entryway when they drop off and pick up their children.”

In Mexico, the number of children at Munchkin Manor has remained steady, owner Heather White said. While they have no openings, they do pick up an occasional child on a day-to-day basis if one of the regulars is out.

The state is allowing child care facilities to increase their capacity as long as the ratio between teacher to child remains within state guidelines.

“I can accept more children depending on the ages of the children,” White said. “The younger ones, you need more staff.”

The YWCA in Lewiston, one of the larger facilities in the area, has openings for school-age children and its prekindergarten services.

“Our numbers have dropped since the pandemic, but recently we have had an increase in new families who need care,” Crystal Parritt, director of Child Care Services for the YWCA, said.

In addition to the current openings, Parritt said the YWCA is expected to open its summer camp program.

With stores and some restaurants in Androscoggin County expected to reopen in June, if the coronavirus is kept in check, Lewiston and Auburn could also see more demands for child care as are the rural counties.

“Who knows what is going to happen on June 1,” Parratt said. “We’ll keep going as much as we’re allowed.”


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