Are Child Care Bubbles Still Allowed?

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and 2021 has changed the daycare business forever. While many issues still must be addressed for the future of this industry, many facility owners are adapting to the “new normal.” One of the adaptations families made during quarantine and for social distancing was that of child care bubbles. 2000 Days Daycare provides some insight into these bubbles and requirements for the near future.

What is a childcare bubble?

Childcare bubbles are adaptations many families across Canada made to the stay-at-home orders, quarantines and social distancing requirements of the coronavirus pandemic. The bubble involves a responsible party in one home providing unpaid and unregistered childcare service to a child from another family.

Under coronavirus standards and for health safety, each household could only form a bubble with one other household. This rule is meant to protect families from unnecessary pathogen exposure and also to keep tabs on personal contact. It also filled gaps left by licensed daycare facility closure during the pandemic.

Who can form one of these bubbles?

Households with children aged 13 or younger were entitled to form a childcare bubble with one other household. After forming a bubble, the bubble cannot be changed or converted to involve a different household. For children with parents in multiple households, a bubble is not necessary for parental visitation. Children under the age of 18 are entitled to see both parents in respective households as part of a different kind of bubble, the support bubble.

Support bubbles are separate from childcare bubbles. But the childcare bubble must follow government guidelines.

January 2021 Covid-19 Circumstances

The coronavirus pandemic has experienced a second resurgence in cases as of late 2020 and early 2021. As of the December 8, 2020, the Alberta government took aggressive steps to prevent overwhelming of the health system. This critical situation meant new mandatory restrictions through at least January 12 of the new year. Of course, these situations change on an ongoing basis and affect childcare bubbles.

In the January mandates, the Alberta government declared a State of Public Health Emergency because of Covid-19. It recognized that social gatherings are the leading cause of coronavirus transmission. As of December 8, all social gatherings were made illegal. This includes both indoor and outdoor socialization. Breaking this rule means facing a $1000 fine.

However, childcare bubbles do not fall under these restrictions. The restrictions also enable parents to maintain co-parenting arrangements between their two households. Family caregiving, health care and child care providers can still fulfill their duties within households, barring any purely social visitation. Licensed daycares are also permitted to operate as long as they adhere to all public health orders related to their businesses.

In short, this means childcare bubbles are still legal. But it also means your family has more options than early in the pandemic restrictions. You can choose to maintain a childcare bubble or you can take your children to a licensed child care centre or home-based program. Of course, masks are still required in indoor public spaces like daycares.

Home-Based Daycare

Beyond bubbles are home-based childcare programs and licensed daycare centres. For in-home operations providing other families with support, only six children are allowed at one time. This limitation does not include the caregiver’s own children. Of course, this limit means some families must seek placement of their child in a formal daycare centre, instead of in-home care.

Home-based childcare must follow enhanced sanitation measures to meet health and safety requirements. These include routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, provision of handwashing or hand sanitizing facilities and restriction on unwell children entering the facility.

While childcare bubbles face fewer restrictions, it is still important to maintain the same level of care and protection to prevent continued spread of the novel coronavirus. Children do not have to wear masks in the bubble of care. But it is still recommended that they do not visit the other household if unwell or showing signs of Covid-19.