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Ascension Via Christi Child Development Center a key asset during COVID-19 outbreak

For almost 40 years, the Child Development Center at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis has provided childcare for associates' children.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, having a center dedicated to helping meet associates' childcare needs has never been more important as Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals and clinics prepare for a potential patient surge.

"We are here to provide a safe space for associates' children, one where they can come and feel normal," says CDC director Erica Rubin, adding, "We want our associates to be able to focus on their jobs and not what they'll do for childcare." 

During the school year, the CDC cares for approximately 180 infants to pre-school-age children from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. However, it is licensed for up to 300 children and has spring break and summer programs for children 12 and under.

With the early end to the school year, the CDC has launched a program for elementary school children, which incorporates homework time and hands-on learning into their daily schedules, including teaching good social hygiene and handwashing.

"We already were doing that, but this has been an opportunity to teach that with heightened awareness," says Rubin. 

Currently, 15 children are enrolled in the school-age program, with the capability of adding another 50 if needed; there is a wait-list for children under age 5, although Rubin is looking at expanding that program's capacity to meet the need.

Because the health and safety of the children and their caregivers is always a priority, Rubin and team continue to work closely with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to ensure that they are closely adhering to its recommendations and those of the other CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For example, staff recently implemented a new pickup and drop off policy that minimizes building foot traffic and contact and will be conducting parent-teacher conferences over the telephone.

"We have the advantage of being a tight-knit group, which helps in delivering consistent communication to address any questions or concerns parents may have," says Jane Swindle, the center's scheduling manager and is one of three associates who have served there since it opened in July 1980. Notably, 80 percent of the CDC's 40-member team have five or more years of service.

While other ways to support associates' childcare needs continue to be explored, having a program with a long-standing reputation for providing excellent care serve is a good start.

"We serve associates and their children so they can serve patients," says Rubin. "That's what matters and that's why our staff is willing to do what they can to make it happen."

About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.