Lesely Crawford runs two daycare centers in Pittsburgh—both of which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. "It's like a hodgepodge of craziness," she told me, as she described their sleeping arrangements and what each age group of kids likes to do while they're there. "But it's so awesome when we have the whole space filled with everybody."
These days, though, Lesely's daycares are operating at less than half of the capacity that they normally do. Many families haven't returned, since the centers reopened to children of non-essential workers. There are additional costs, for things like thermometers and cleaning supplies. And in order to accommodate new families, Lesely needs to hire a few new employees—something that has proved difficult during the pandemic. "I don't know what we're gonna do," Lesely told me, when I asked about their financial situation. "I'm really giving it like six to eight months."
But for the essential and frontline workers who are sending their children to them, Lesely's daycares are providing a critical service. Cara Moody has sent her five-year-old son Colton there for the past two years, and depends on their evening and weekend hours while she works her shifts at a local restaurant. Especially now that her work hours are limited by the pandemic, she can't afford in-home care. "Even just having a babysitter come for a couple of hours is expensive and unreliable," she said. When I asked her what she would do if Lesely's daycare closed, she responded, "I have no idea."