Amid global crisis, VCU’s Child Development Center remains community focused

Staff members are caring for children of VCU Health System employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A teacher supervises children in a play area.
In this photo taken before the pandemic started, assistant teacher Nakita Battle cares for children in the outdoor play area of the Child Development Center. (Courtesy photo)

The Virginia Commonwealth University Child Development Center has stepped up to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing care for the children of frontline health care professionals so they don’t have to choose between staying home with their children or caring for patients.

The center, which is affiliated with the VCU School of Education and provides care for the children of VCU faculty, staff and students, is poised to serve nearly 48 children of VCU Health System professionals who are able to go to work and contribute to saving lives.

Following recommendations from Gov. Ralph Northam and Duke Storen, the state’s commissioner for social services, Thomas H. Beatty, Ed.D., director of the center, and Andrew P. Daire, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education, recently asked Child Development Center families who are working remotely to keep their children at home and afford space for the center to serve the children of VCU Health System employees during the crisis.

Not only have parents responded, but the center’s staff has responded as well.

Staying within the guidelines to reduce class sizes to eight with two teachers, the center’s team also has ramped up precautionary screening and overall safety measures to ensure the well-being of children and staff.

“Our [Child Development Center] staff is critical to the mission of the school and is committed to service,” Beatty said. “All 14 of our staff members want to remain at the center to provide child care services not only to our current students, but also to the children of health care workers whose child care services abruptly ended when the coronavirus crisis caused area school divisions to close.

“One staff member said that she would rather be at the [center] taking care of the children of health care workers as opposed to sitting at home. Another said that because she is on the [Child Development Center] team, she wants to be at the [center] with her team,” he said. “I know that several of them are frightened, but they've pushed past their fear because they know that they will be making a difference. I am honored to lead this team.”

Daire said the center’s work aligns with one of the School of Education’s values of being community focused, by building intentional relationships with the surrounding community and engaging in actions that focus on the needs of its people.

“I don't think it’s a stretch to say that they’re contributing to saving lives in our community,” he said. “Not only are they emulating their center's mission, they are reflecting the School of Education’s broader mission, vision and values.”

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