SWEETWATER, Texas — Red blobs and countless little red palm prints on beige-brownish walls, cover one of Abby Palacios’ bedrooms. If you ask the artist, Allie, these are sandals. Allie’s 2. It didn’t take her that long to express her creative genius. Parents Abby and Patrick estimate it took less than five minutes of being alone.
Patrick works full-time, Abby works too, at the Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital and goes to nursing school.
They need help caring for Allie and her 1-year-old brother, Nikolai. Their usual daycare options shut down for COVID19.
One of Abby’s bosses saw that coming in early March.
“We were concerned that schools would close down and the daycares would close down,” said Ame Bennett, Human Resources Director at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital. “The administrator charged me with finding out how many of our workers that would have children that were displaced because of the shutdowns. We came up with about 40 children that would need somewhere to go.”
Forty kids may not seem like a large number, but the only hospital in a small community had to figure out a way to keep the staff working.
Bennett is from Sweetwater, a town of about 10,000 near Abilene. The childcare solution Bennett came up with was RPMH Rascals, a members-only Facebook page.
“I invited parents that let us know they had a need. And I invited parents that had teenage children home because the schools were closed. And we kind of paired them together,” Bennett said. “It helped all of our employees find people that could care for their children. We were able to keep our workers at work and your children in daycare so we can provide care for the community.”
That’s how Abby found Julia, Abbie’s and Nikolai’s sitter. Abby hopes the Facebook page stays active after schools and daycares open.
“Just call and say, ‘hey, you know, I really need a babysitter,’” she said. “You can just post in a group and then there's like multiple people, multiple people who will come in and help you and you know them.”
Several state agencies have offered this website as a resource for front-line workers across the state, looking for help to care for their kids.
You can find help by zip code. There are also suggestions on how to start an emergency childcare program or learn how to start your own emergency childcare facility in a specific school district.
The Texas Workforce Commission told KHOU11, since the site was publicly launched two to 3 weeks ago, it’s had 15,505 searches across 1,159 zip codes.
In an email, a TWC spokesman provide the following statistics.
There are approximately 122,000 childcare seats available in open providers. We have more than 5,200 childcare providers reporting (About 61% of open childcare providers).
- 17,500 infant seats
- 31,000 toddler seats
- 39,000 preschool seats
- 35,000 school age seats
Cisco Gamez said these numbers are updated daily and have been growing over the past few weeks.