Sacramento helps other cities, organizations launch free childcare for health-care workers, first responders

Three weeks after the City of Sacramento launched its Essential Worker Childcare program, it now is helping other municipalities implement similar programs to address the critical need for childcare during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment Department, in partnership with Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby, on March 23 kicked off the free program at eight City community centers for children of first responders, health-care workers and essential City employees. The program is staffed by City community center, 4th “R”, START and ASES employees.

Shortly after Sacramento’s program began, Ashby’s office began receiving calls from other cities and organizations looking to start similar childcare programs, including the cities of Los Angeles, Stockton, Folsom, West Sacramento, Fayettevile, N.C., as well as Folsom Prison and United Health Care Workers.

“I’m proud of Sacramento for implementing a high-quality childcare program for first responders, medical personnel and essential City staff early in the COVID-19 process,” Ashby said. “That quick action has allowed stability for a workforce we are depending on to get us through these uncharted waters, and it has placed Sacramento in a position to help other cities do the same.”

To get the program up and running, Youth, Parks & Community Enrichment staff quickly adapted to the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for physical distancing and sanitation protocol. Some of those precautions include maintaining groups of no more than 10 people (including both staff and children), keeping children in the same groups and enforcing physical distancing within each group, teaching children proper hand-washing and sanitizing practices, avoiding sharing and large group activities, and maintaining increased cleaning and disinfecting of the community centers.

Children enrolled in the Essential Workers Childcare program participate in science experiments.

Staff creatively implemented programs that follow these guidelines for the children, ages 5 through 12, including chalk art, dancing, story writing, science projects and a “Halloween Day” on April 1. This week, children will participate in an “Eggstravaganza,” crazy sock and hair days, a running club, and more science and art projects.

“YPCE staff consistently hear from parents how grateful they are for the on-site staff and for the childcare centers in general,” said Interim Youth Division Manager Monica Blanco. “We’ve had some children cry at the end of the day because they aren’t ready to go home, which is the sign of a good day!”

Examples of art created by children enrolled in the Essential Worker Childcare program.

First responders, health care workers and essential City employees who need care for children younger than 5 years old are referred to the YMCA, which has 60 paid slots available. Child Action, Inc., the local non-profit childcare referral service, has also set aside 50 vouchers for subsidized childcare in the community for low-income workers.

“We have been honored to help many local partners and cities,” Ashby said. “Our program is highly sought after because it’s effective and was put in place quickly. All credit goes to the amazing staff of our Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment Department. They continue to do an amazing job with this effort.”

To sign up for the Essential Workers Childcare, click here and search for “Essential Workers Childcare.” If you have questions, email

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