Raising Richmond: YWCA saves the (work)day!

Got a little one feeling under the weather but you can’t miss another day at the office? Fear not. The YWCA of Richmond has got you covered.

We’ve all been there.

It’s 11:00 on a weeknight. Just as you start to drift off, a pitiful cough echoes in the next room.

You wait. You hold your breath. You pray it’s a one-off and your little one will soon settle back down and go to sleep.

But there it is again–this time with feeling. And again. Annnnnd again.

“Babaaaaaa?!?? I deed you do blow by dose!!!!!”

As you schlep yourself out of bed and into your little one’s room, tissues/cough medicine/thermometer/nasal aspirator/what have you in hand, you’re probably thinking two things: 1) Awwwww my poor baby and 2) Shit. Which one of us is going to stay home tomorrow?1

At this point in our family’s life, the answer to that question is always yours truly. We’re very blessed in that my various means of employment afford me the opportunity to work from home when needed.2 However, I know that isn’t the case for many families out there; it wasn’t the case for ours when our son was younger either. A sick kid means someone has to take one for the team and miss a day (or days) of work. Figuring out who it’s going to be is a very sticky conversation: Who’s got personal days to spare? Who’s busier? Whose job is More Important?

That conversation just gets more maddening (and more DANGER, WILL ROBINSON) the longer your child’s illness hangs around–especially when you’re in that wonderful grey area of “He acts like he feels completely fine, but his fever is just above what the day care’s sickness policy3 will allow.” You might also entertain thoughts of loading your child up with Tylenol and dropping him off at school, figuring you can get in four, solid hours at the office before his teachers beckon you back to retrieve your poor, sort-of-sick child.4

Well, working-and-sometimes-ridden-with-guilt parents of Richmond, no longer must we be slaves to our children’s lingering sniffles! No longer must we cringe as we send off another email to tell our supervisors we have to miss another day of work! No longer must we be filled will dread when we realize that (DUN DUN DUN) day care is calling!

Thanks to the YWCA of Richmond’s new sick child care initiative, local parents will soon have access to child care for kids (ages 3 to 12) experiencing common childhood illnesses. This new program–officially named “Under the Weather Sick Child Care”–is possible thanks to a partnership between the YWCA and ECPI’s School of Nursing. Staffed by Lori Dykes, a licensed nurse5 and master teacher at ECPI, the Under the Weather program functions as both a service to Richmond parents in need of last-minute, high-quality care for their sick kids and a learning environment for nursing students.

“All of the nursing students have to do a pediatric rotation,” explains Bobby Knost, director of the YWCA’s Child Development Center. “By setting up a location here that ECPI staffs with one of their licensed nurses, they’ve got a classroom set up for students to rotate through, and we’ve got a licensed nurse overseeing the children in the program. So it’s mutually beneficial.”

Housed within a special room (with its own entrance) within the YWCA’s Child Development Center down on 5th Street, this new sick care program came as a direct response to the needs of families the YWCA has come in contact with throughout the city.

“Those families need a place for their children who are mildly ill to be placed when they are not allowed at school,” says Knost. “Nothing major like the flu,” he adds. “Little things like colds, minor fevers, ailments that are no longer contagious because the child’s been treated for 24 to 48 hours. There’s no place in the city like that. There are some outlying places in the suburbs of Richmond providing that care but nothing downtown.”


The sick care space (deemed “The Butterfly Room” because Nurse Lori put those suckers up everywhere) looks much like your typical elementary or preschool classroom, but with a bit more of a homey feel. Child-sized cots and individual cubbies line the wall so each child has his or her own space to settle in and snuggle up. The room also includes a play area with plenty of toys, as well as an eating area where kids will partake in their center-provided breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack.

“We wanted this to be modeled after what the kids would be doing if they were at home sick,” explains Knost.

So in addition to working her students through a schedule of room prep, running basic assessments on the kids, and taking vitals, Nurse Lori has created a low-key but structured schedule for her young patients, building in plenty of time for rest and even movies if they’re up for it. Kids are also welcome to bring handheld video games, stuffed animals, books, favorite toys, and games–anything (within reason) to make them more comfortable.

Because Under the Weather is a pilot program, sick care is only available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. However, Knost expects that change by 2014.

“Monday would be the next logical day for us to be open, but next year we’ll be open five days a week.”

Under the Weather is currently in enrollment for the remainder of 2013 with the program set to officially kick off in April. Knost estimates that they will have space for 30 to 40 families on this year’s roster with a daily capacity of eight children. Enrollment includes a $55 deposit and a $20 registration fee good for the whole year with those funds going towards costs for the meals and supplies provided for the kids. From there you either pay $55 for a full day of care or $30 for a half day, and only when you use it.

For those of you doing the math, that’s pretty comparable to the daily rate for most daycares–but this price also includes the added bonus of your child spending the day under the care of a licensed medical professional. And while, yes, it’s an added expense for those of us currently forking over bales of cash a month for child care, the sheer convenience and peace of mind offered by the Under the Weather program–that it’s there if you need it–makes it seem well worth the extra cash.

(And the fact that it might spare you from parental guilt, marital strife, or life as the object of a preschool teacher’s ire doesn’t hurt either.)

For more information on the YWCA’s Under the Weather Sick Child Care program, visit ywcarichmond.org. If you’re interested in enrolling, call or email Bobby Knost, director of the YWCA’s Child Development Center, at 804-980-7298 or bknost@ywcarichmond.org.

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  1. If you happen to have a husband, wife, or co-parent. To you single parents out there, I tip my hat to you once again. 
  2. Although not much work happens from home when our son is sick. Typically I just end up tending to his needs throughout the day and then start working after he goes to bed, but that’s neither here nor there. Sometimes it sucks, but it still allows me to be home with him if he needs me. 
  3. The whole “fever-free for 24 hours without medication” makes me want to throw punches. When it’s my kid, I mean. If it’s other people’s kids, I get all judgy if they’re sent to school with a fever. Because, well, I’m a brat. 
  4. A totally hypothetical situation. 
  5. And former school nurse, a profession that (when approached properly) requires a very special and magical type of person. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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