By Sophie Gorman Oriani


The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the child care scene in Prince George’s County. According to Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, in a July 30 press conference, the number of child care slots in the county had fallen from 25,000 to approximately 14,000. This reflects a significant decrease in the number of child care providers, which Alsobrooks noted had fallen by 42%, from 1,100 to 635.

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Hyattsville day care advertises open spots
Courtesy of Jared Marx

On July 30, Alsobrooks announced that she had allocated two million dollars of CARES Act funding to child care providers. “It is our hope that these funds will help these facilities to reopen, remain open, and provide safe and reliable child care for all of our families,” she said. 


The City of Hyattsville has also set aside $100,000 of their $1 million COVID-19 pandemic relief fund for child care providers. At the Aug. 10 city council meeting, City Administrator Tracey Douglas noted there was still funding available for child care providers. Several Hyattsville day cares have received grants from the city, including two day cares that received an additional grant in the second funding cycle.


Sarah Petrus lives in Hyattsville and has been working on and off in child care for over 20 years. Three years ago, she opened a home day care program, which she, like so many others, had to close in March. “When I tried to reopen, it was very hard to get kids,” she said. With only one child attending her program, Petrus was forced to close again. She did not apply for a grant from the city and has no plans to reopen, but has applied for a job as a 911 dispatcher.


Petrus called her decision to close permanently “devastating,” adding, “I used to work 12 hours a day and treat these kids like they were my own babies.”


Other child care programs have reopened and are managing to hold on. Christie Cooper, the director of the St. Jerome Child Center, said that the center has been back in operation for about nine weeks. Cooper noted that finances are tight, and she is hoping to apply for some of the CARES Act funding. 


“I’m one of the fortunate ones,” she said. “Our parents want to come back, and I have a wait list. So when someone drops, I call someone off my wait list right away.” She has about 60 children currently attending the center; some families have chosen to pay a reduced fee to hold their spot while they continue to keep their children home.


Hours at the St. Jerome Child Center are slightly reduced to allow for more cleaning, but the day care is close to full, with only five spots currently open. Parents aren’t allowed in the building, but drop off their children at the door instead. “I have very strict rules,” laughed Cooper. “I’m trying to not have any extra germs involved.”