Coping with Child Care for Health Care Workers in COVID-19 Era

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

As schools are closing throughout the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this creates a significant stress for health care workers who need to be on the job, but whose school-age children suddenly need back-up care.

In Minnesota, schools will be closing statewide on Wednesday. Although the governor's school closing order mandates that school districts provide child care for emergency responders and health care workers, the logistics of meeting that challenge will be complicated.

As we have been developing back-up child care plans for Mayo Clinic staff, one of our leaders suggested this would be a great opportunity for social media to help solve a problem. With so many colleges and universities closed or moving to online instruction, and with the K-12 schools closed, what if we could use social media to match those available older students with health care workers who needed care for their kids?

While we were starting to explore those options, two members of our Mayo Clinic community, daughters of Mayo Clinic physicians, were taking the initiative to make it happen, creating an online initiative called Step Up to SIT.

Rioghna Pittock is a junior at Mayo High School, and her sister Hannah is a senior at the University of Chicago majoring in Economics and Political Science. Here's their explanation of the program:

What is Step Up to SIT?

Step Up to SIT is a student led initiative with the goal of keeping healthcare and other essential workers healthy and able to do their jobs while reducing the transmission of COVID-19 between children and their families. This initiative matches high school and college students willing to offer their babysitting services with individual families to allow parents to keep working. At a time like this, it is easy for young people, who are largely unaffected by COVID-19, to feel helpless. It is our hope that through this initiative we can empower young people to do what they can to keep their communities safe, and at the same time offer valuable and necessary assistance to healthcare and other essential workers so they can feel confident continuing to do their jobs to keep our Rochester functional and healthy.

It is so important in crises like these that communities come together to offer and sacrifice their time and talents to protect society’s most vulnerable. It is our mission to make those efforts as easy as possible, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure the health and safety of our community!

Why Does it Matter?

Our government is doing what they can to minimize the viral spread while ensuring that workers can still do their jobs, and we are so grateful for their proactive efforts. However, crowded daycares full of children who are unlikely to get very sick, but have huge potential to spread the virus, mean increased risks for healthcare workers interacting with vulnerable populations on a daily basis. By matching individual babysitters with individual families, our goal is to minimize interactions that can spread the virus and keep our community’s children and workers as healthy as possible.

How Does it Work?

Step Up to SIT matches students willing to babysit with parents in need of childcare. In order to participate, all you have to do is fill out a google form, which can be found at bit.ly/StepUptoSIT or by scanning the QR code below. If you are a student, the form will ask about your availability, willingness to volunteer your time, child age preference, and driving capabilities. If you are a parent, the form will ask about the age(s) of your children and childcare needs. Once you have filled out the form, we will match babysitters and parents and make an introduction via email. At that point, it’s up to you to sort out logistics, but we are always available to help in any way we can!

What About Payment?

We understand last minute childcare can present a serious financial burden. Many of our students are willing to volunteer their time! If, as a parent, cost is concern, there is a place to indicate that need/preference. Otherwise, hourly rates and payment structures should be determined between each individual student and family. We will do our best to ensure all families in need of volunteers are matched appropriately, but matches are based on availability and preference. 

We will also be accepting donations via Venmo @StepUptoSIT, the proceeds from which will be donated weekly, in equal proportion, to the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, the Dorothy Day House of Rochester, the International Society for Infectious Diseases, and the Direct Relief’s Coronavirus Pandemic Response.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please do to hesitate to email us at stepuptosit@gmail.com or reach out via our social media and we would be happy to help in any way we can!

Twitter: @StepUptoSIT

Instagram: @stepuptosit

Facebook: Step Up to SIT

As of this writing, Step Up to SIT has identified more than 80 students willing to provide child care to Rochester-area health care and other essential workers. Because they're doing the matching manually, they need to focus efforts on the Rochester area, but they're willing to share what they've done with others who want to implement this in their own communities.

If you're from the Rochester, Minn. area, please share this post or the Step Up to Sit links on your social accounts, encouraging your contacts to sign up to provide care or get care for their children.

Also, here's a PDF with more info if you'd like to share as a handout:

If you're from outside of Rochester and would like to emulate this program in your community, connect with Rioghna and Hannah via the accounts listed above, and they'll be glad to share their resources and templates.

DISCLAIMER:

Mayo Clinic is sharing news of this initiative solely for the convenience of employees who need options for child care. Mayo Clinic does not screen either care providers or clients and makes no representations as to the qualifications of the care providers or as to the nature of the clients. Care providers and clients who use this service acknowledge that Mayo Clinic is not responsible for, and will be held harmless against, any injury, loss, or other damage arising from or related in any manner to the clients' and care providers use of this service.

Choose a message to share 
Via @MayoClinic: Coping with child care for health care workers during the COVID-19 outbreak: #Coronavirus #ChildCare #MayoClinic
Are you a healthcare worker in the Rochester, Minnesota, area in need of childcare during the current coronavirus outbreak? Here's some info from @MayoClinic you might find really helpful: #MayoClinic #ChildCare
It is so important in times of crises that communities come together to offer and sacrifice their time and talents to protect society’s most vulnerable. Get the full story here from @MayoClinic: #ChildCare #MayoClinic


A neat program and a good use of social media. Think of healthcare social media right now in three ways:

1. Use it to directly save lives. That means coordinating with your medical folks messaging which can have the greatest impact – which at this moment is mostly social distancing, but includes appropriate vetted triage information.

2. Support healthcare infrastructure. That’s what’s being creatively done here.

3. Support the “good cheer” of the community. Here I am thinking more of London during the blitz: “Keep Calm and Carry On“ and seeing this as an opportunity to have some lightness. For example, a larger healthcare org could tap into all of those employees children’s at home creative energy and offer a 500, 250, and 100 dollar prize for the best “social distancing photo” or the best CoVid haiku or short story, that type of thing. (From a network perspective you are voluntarily leveraging your staffs personal family digital network to extend your own).

Anyway, most folks are probably on #1, but #2 and #3 could be possibilities too!

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