Skip to content

Jumping Hoops and New Ways to Show Love

renaldo 2

By Jessenia Reyes

Renaldo Sanders fights to maintain a positive attitude and nurture the children and families who attend her center, despite the chaos and uncertainty COVID-19 brings. Grounded in hope and joy—and with over 30 years of expertise in early childhood and lived experience—Renaldo tries her best to normalize the experience for the children and families as they adapt to new rules and regulations. Renaldo, a childcare provider in the city of Compton, runs an equity justice center where kids are still thriving and showing love despite all the changes.

The pandemic did not affect her enrollment. As children kept walking through her door, Renaldo realized that they were excited to see their friends and start their routine regardless of what was happening out in the world. To maintain her program, Renaldo had to implement drastic safety measures to keep up with regulations. But more importantly, she wanted to ease parents’ concerns and fears around the spread of COVID.

From the start, Renaldo shared with parents and guardians the new safety precautions that had to take place. They included: continuous hand washing, daily and constant temperature checks, hand sanitizer stations, individual clipboards and pens in a plastic bag per child, and wearing a mask. These new adjustments demand additional and reoccurring costs for the center which were not accounted for during budgeting season. Although her local Resource and Referral Network (R&R) and Crystal Stairs provided critical funding to help with cleaning supplies, these stipends were one-time funds, compelling Renaldo to search for other funding sources.

With much hope and optimism, Renaldo took it upon herself to apply to grants and funding opportunities to cover the additional expenses. Renaldo has applied to various funding grants that Verizon, and Los Angeles County—to name a few—offered, only to find herself in a lottery system or number 350 on the waiting list. Due to the overwhelming amount of time it took to apply for grants, Renaldo decided to stop applying. The grant application processes were arduous and tedious leaving her hopeless and forced her to make sacrifices within her already tight budget to maintain safety standards required for COVID-19.

Renaldo’s home-based center adapted curriculum and activities to avoid touch and encourage distance play. While the City of Long Beach provided free tables to providers, Renaldo had to buy additional toy boxes per child to safeguard their nametags and individual toys. On one hand, children are loving their “own space” or their individual materials. However, they often remember the joy of cooking together to make pizza and cookies and frequently tell Renaldo “COVID should just go away!” For babies, her team has introduced new games by wiggling toes and hands away from their face.

The toughest challenge yet has been teaching children new and different ways to show love. Children by nature are affectionate; now Renaldo and her staff are showing children to make an “x” with their arms and give air hugs to demonstrate affection. Through constant play and interaction, the center is continually asking the children how they feel to check in on their mental health and better understand how they are adapting to all the changes. Renaldo grew up in a loving and nurturing home, and in turn, she wants to offer the same. Her lived experience informs her approach to working with families. She hopes to travel soon so that she can connect with her family—who keep her motivated and connected when she feels overwhelmed.

While Renaldo has been able to get by so far, she wonders about sustainability. Providers like Renaldo need:

  • Support and technical assistance to apply for grants and financial aid opportunities; and streamlined grant processes that ensure financial aid opportunities are accessible.
  • Training for ELC providers that includes coaching and technical assistance to support the implementation of COVID-19 health and safety regulations.
  • The opportunity to receive a “seal of safety” when providers complete COVID health and safety trainings that they can share with families.
  • Access to support and training on how to navigate social-emotional needs to support children and families coping with COVID-19 stressors.

Advancement Project California launched our early learning and care blog series to show how California has the opportunity to take bold steps to build an early learning and care system that addresses the foundations of systemic racism, racial equity, and economic justice. Read more below, and check back daily through January 29th for new updates.