Fellow Physician University of Michigan Medicine University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Background: Historically, the out-of-home child care industry has not been well prepared for emergencies. In 2014, our survey found significant gaps in our state’s child care programs’ disaster plans. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear if child care programs have improved their level of preparedness planning compared to six years ago when state child care licensing began requiring written emergency preparedness plans.
Objective: To evaluate current gaps in Michigan’s child care programs’ emergency preparedness plans compared to 2014 and to examine COVID-19's effects on child care programs.
Design/Methods: Disaster preparedness and child care experts developed a 29-question online survey sent to child care leadership to assess programs’ emergency plans and response to COVID-19. Surveys were distributed May-July 2020 to a cohort of ~500 programs routinely surveyed by the state. One survey per program was filled out by the lead director, teacher, or owner. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Results: A total of 346 child care programs (70%) responded. Most respondents were center owners or directors (69%). Most programs (92%) reported having a written plan; one third of programs did not have any accommodations for special needs children (vs. 40% in 2016); 62% did not have a method for identifying staff/children for reunification; 20% of programs leveraged a disaster consultant (vs. 12% in 2016). Less than half (46%) of programs reported staff had received any preparedness training. One third of programs did not report having an infectious outbreak plan pre-pandemic, including protocols for COVID-19 positive cases. COVID impacted programs substantially: 59% closed; 20% decreased capacity; 27% changed disinfecting protocols; 25% required additional pandemic supplies. Conclusion(s): The COVID-19 pandemic highlights continued gaps in Michigan’s child care programs’ preparedness plans. The overall high proportion of programs missing critical components of disaster planning demonstrates that state licensing requirements alone are insufficient to ensure that programs have effective written plans. A more structured approach to the dissemination of a comprehensive child care-specific disaster preparedness plan (toolbox) combined with online training is needed to optimize programs’ preparedness plans.
A comparison of the results of our 2014 study to our 2020 study demonstrating the ongoing gaps amongst child care programs' disaster and emergency plans.
Highlights of the way the COVID-19 pandemic affected child care programs in Michigan.
Many programs had to make significant changes in regards to staffing, supplies, capacity and cleaning and disinfecting procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authors/Institutions: Elizabeth Budnik, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States; Allison Cator, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States; Stuart Bradin, the university of michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States; Andrew N. Hashikawa, University of Michigan, Dexter, Michigan, United States