Last night, we launched our Annual Report to great fanfare. It was a 4-minute movie that raised spirits and raised the roof. Before we post it on our website, please take the time to meet one of the stars of the show…
There are times that you want a change – in your life, or your career – and there are other times where the world gives you much more change than you bargained for. Nazia Mohammed’s planned change was a shift in careers: after working in the dental field for eleven years, she felt the need to pursue her passion, which was to work with children. She earned her Early Childhood Education diploma from Mohawk College and was hired at Today’s Family as an ECE float assisting at multiple Hamilton locations.
Everything was going relatively to plan, and then COVID-19 happened. Schools – and child care programs – began closing to help slow the spread of the pandemic. “This is happening,” Nazia remembers thinking. “The world is changing. What can I do to help?”
Nazia knew what she had to do. She spoke with her family, and decided to run a home child care program to support families who desperately needed child care. “It felt right,” she said.
For Nazia, the decision to open her home as an emergency home child care program was an easy one to make. “I was always taught to give back,” she told us. “For my own children, my mother is always there to help if I need her. But I knew that there are families that rely on child care, that rely on us, to be able to work.” Nazia decided that she would care for the children of first responders and emergency hospital workers. It was her way of directly helping to fight against COVID-19.
“Today’s Family made it very possible,” Nazia says. “They provided us with everything that we needed: wipes, touchless thermometers, and protocols to keep us safe.” Nazia started her program in April and ended it by mid-July. For her, the home child care program was always meant to be a temporary reprieve until the system could get back on its feet.
The process of opening her own home child care program was helped along by Lisa Ramage who was her home visitor and mentor at the time. With her decades of experience in early childhood education and home child care, Lisa helped Nazia, who was just becoming acquainted with home child care, make opening her home a seamless operation.
What does home child care look like in the age of social distancing? Nazia said that it felt like normal, barring a few extra precautions. Initial parent and child interviews were held over Zoom or a meet and greet outside her home with physical distancing in mind, and when it came time for children to arrive, Nazia would open her doors wide and then stand six feet away from the parents to conduct daily screening.<
In addition to her two children, ages seven and six, Nazia provided child care to, depending on the day, three to five additional children – all of whom were the children of essential workers. When asked about daily routines, Nazia replied, “I had all school-agers,” she said. “They were still doing schoolwork.” Nazia integrated each child’s daily required school work into their routine which helped the parents a lot knowing that their children were also able to focus on school during care, along with plenty of walks, creative arts and child-led activities.
Despite the relatively easy transition into home child care life, Nazia was aware of the possibility of the children contracting COVID-19 from their parents. “There was one case where a child was dropped off and shortly after had symptoms of an upset tummy,” Nazia remembers. “But we handled it very well. I called my home child care supervisor, and she told me exactly what to do. The child was picked up almost immediately and everyone was tested.”
The test results came back 24 hours later. “Everything came back negative.”
Nazia says that the home child care experience was overall a positive one, especially for her children. Over the four months, she saw subtle but important changes in them. “This experience made them more mature,” she explained. “They built relationships with the other children. They had opportunities to socialize and make new friends,” which was especially important for the months where they were unable to see their own friends.
Nazia also appreciates what the experience has done for her. She said that the families she cared for were very appreciative of her program and she felt a “mutual understanding” from the parents. She felt an incredible amount of trust from her community, coworkers, and the parents themselves. And now that centres are beginning to reopen, she is happy to get back. “It was a transition,” she said of returning to work. “I went from working with kids in my home to working in a screening position.”
Nazia returned to work to screen the programs’ children for signs of COVID-19 to keep everyone as safe as possible. “I feel very fortunate to have this position.” With Today’s Family centres going back to full capacity, Nazia is now back to her float position which includes working with children in different age groups and screening from time to time.
“Let’s see what I can do next!”
Nazia will soon be starring in “Not so long ago, In a place not far away” which will start streaming here on Monday