San Diego Business Journal

Childcare facilities are closing doors amid coronavirus outbreak, leaving parents struggling with work schedules.

Front line workers such as doctors, first responders, grocery clerks, and other who are working critical demanding jobs are faced with needing to find someone to take care of their children.

Family childcare programs — operated by stay-at-home moms — have a hard job because they are caring up to six to 14 children, typically with little to no help.

During time of crisis like the COVID-19, many of them simply lack the opportunity to tune into the news and be up-to-date with the latest news and how it will impact their community.

With the closure of schools, many family childcare providers are stepping up to provide their services for those children, who were ousted and now have no place to go while their parents work.

San Diego-based child care startup, called TOOTRiS, is positioning itself as a community resource tool helping child care provides.

Founded in 2019, the company’s mission is to connect parents that need quality childcare with providers in the community.

“The health, safety and well-being of working families is our highest priority. We are well aware of the countless ways in which this outbreak is impacting our day to day lives. In this unprecedented moment, with schools and businesses closing and work priorities shifting, TOOTRiS is committed to assisting our community in every way possible. We understand that now, more than ever, child care is needed,” said Alessandra Lezama, CEO of TOOTRiS.

The Department of Social Services, announced last week regarding exceptions to the licensing requirements of child care providers. It called for child care services with home program to honor a caregiver to child ratio of one to four. 

A Compelling Need for Information

Lezama said this past week the team is reaching out to childcare providers and it quickly discovered a need for digestible information around the topic, as many care providers were left confused on what actions to take.

As a response, the TOOTRiS team immediately engaged with state agencies including the Department of Social Services and the local offices of childcare licensing to put together a comprehensive document on the subject.

“There’s so much information that it can overwhelm anyone that doesn’t have the time to read reports. So we created a (CDC) situation summary, which we plan on updating online every day,” said Lezama.

In particular, the company complied facts about COVID-19, in a way that is digestible for the average person. The team created resources that allow people to better understand the disease, the immediate risks, and more importantly how to recognize the early symptoms.

TOOTRiS brought together its staff and volunteers and went out into the community distributing pamphlets, informational kit, posters, and essentials and delivered them to care providers.

For example, small centers licensed for six children can now take up to 14 children without having to go through CCL. TOOTRiS is trying to connect providers with extra capacity and parents in need of child care.

Another example, one to six ratio of caregiver to children for toddlers will now be extended to one to 10 toddlers, which in turn creates additional availability of childcare for parents that aren’t in a position to stay home.

The company believes that spreading the word on these new regulations will help those looking for child care and those providing it.

TOOTRiS said the care providers were grateful to have the information and additional help in matching up with those in need.

“We really have had an impact and we feel privileged about it,” said Lezama.

The company said it has effectively been able to expand the capacity of family childcare programs by connecting those in need to those who are operating during the outbreak.

Company officials said during this period of time they will remain a conduit to ensure that all information that comes from the Department of Social Services and childcare licensing offices in the region are propagating to the providers.

Also, they have extended hours of operation on a phone basis, making themselves accessible to families that still need to be connected with providers.

TOOTRiS currently employs 16, and recently moved into its new headquarters in Sorrento Valley.

“It’s a huge upside and it just goes to show how important the role of the family childcare provider is in our communities. Without them, there would be no childcare.”