Keeping Childcare Centers Open During COVID: EveryStep's CCNC Program

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kay Strahorn's priority was the health and safety of her staff and the children they care for at Bidwell Riverside Child Development Center.
With so many unknowns surrounding the virus, Kay knew she would need help to stay on top of recommendations and best practices to keep everyone safe.
As the director of the childcare center for almost four years, Kay knew exactly who she could turn to: Kristin Sjulin, community health registered nurse with EverStep's Child Care Nurse Consultant (CCNC) program.
"I've worked with Kristin the whole time," Kay says of her time at Bidwell Riverside. "We used the CCNC program a lot for different reasons pre-COVID. Any health-related questions with our kids and their families, I'd give her a call and she'd walk me through things."
EveryStep’s CCNC program, which was created through a grant from the Iowa Department of Public Health in 1995, promotes health and safety within child care environments. Each year, EveryStep’s CCNC program provides service to more than 200 child care providers in Polk and Dallas counties.
The program utilizes funding from United Way, Polk County Early Childhood Iowa and 4R Kids Early Childhood Iowa so there is no cost to the child care providers, children or families.
Additionally, CCNC provides hearing and health screenings to children, and helps centers with health and safety assessments as part of the Iowa Quality Rating Systems.
"Kristin has always been responsive to any questions," Kay notes. "I can always count on her to give a call back or touch base. That's important because life in a childcare center moves fast."
And things certainly picked up in March 2020, as the pandemic began.
"We never considered closing, but that doesn't mean that we weren't all anxious and worried about that," Kay says. "We wanted to stay open for our families, but it was really challenging. It was a scary time."
Staff and teachers were worried about what was happening, but Kay says Kristin helped ease their minds.
"Kristin has always been there," she says. "I"m sure she worked so many hours of overtime during those first six or eight months of COVID. I was calling her a ton and I imagine other centers were as well."
Kristin's ability to reassure Kay and her staff that they would get though the uncertain situation helped them move forward. As director, Kay's staff looked to her for answers and reassurance, and Kay could rely on Kristin to provide accurate info and resources.
Bidwell Riverside Center is more than just a childcare center; it also includes a food pantry with its own staff and manager. Kay says she was able to share the information that Kristin provided with her colleagues in other areas of the Center.
"Kristin kind of took care of all of Bidwell," she says. 
While Kay never wanted to close the childcare center, knowing it could have devastating impacts on families who needed childcare to continue working, an exposure did hit the center. Kristin was there to walk Kay through it.
"She reassured us that it was going to be okay," Kay says. "Just because we had an exposure, doesn't mean COVID is coming to Bidwell."
With that in mind, when a positive COVID test did occur within Bidewll, Kay knew the center would get through its 14-day closure.
"It was hard on our parents," Kay says. "It was anxiety inducing. But luckily no one else got it. Kristin was with me every step of the way through that. She helped calm us down."
As the pandemic continues, Kay remains in contact with Kristin, finding the assistance and resources her center needs to keep their children, families and staff healthy.
"Working with Kristin and CCNC just give you peace of mind when it comes to all health and safety-type issues," she says. "It helps you not feel alone wading though all the resources online and the changing guidelines."
To learn more about the CCNC program and other services EveryStep offers, visit
To learn more about the CCNC program and other services EveryStep offers, visit our website.