Alumna’s Child Care Center Aids Essential Workers
When Carmen Hernandez started Precious Moments Family Child Care in Milwaukee in 2007, she never anticipated working under the circumstances placed by the coronavirus pandemic.
When Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order required schools to close in spring of 2020 but called for essential employees to continue business as usual, many parents were in a frenzy seeking child care.
Hernandez recalls the moment when the virus first reached her community as a moment of panic. “Nobody really knew what was happening. I didn’t know. Parents didn’t know. The whole community was in shambles,” she said.
After the initial shock, she was able to recalibrate and assess the situation. More than ever, children with working parents needed to have reliable support. “I went through all of the information that the state was sending to the daycare centers,” said Hernandez. “Then I started sending out procedures. I wanted to make sure that my staff and I would not contract the virus.”
MATC Prepared Hernandez to Serve and Lead
Hernandez’s passion for child care started when she looked after her son. She saw how vital extra support was for her son’s development and decided she wanted to do the same for other children.
Soon after, she enrolled in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Early Childhood Education program and received her associate degree. Since graduating, she also has earned five additional certifications to serve the children more effectively.
“I am very thankful for the preparation MATC gave me,” said Hernandez. “They provided all of the curriculum content in Spanish, which is my primary language. The program also taught me socialization and the importance of networking.”
Over the years, Hernandez has positioned herself as a leader in her community, especially among Latino family care providers. She serves as one of the crucial voices of “Proveedoras Unidas,” which translates to “United Providers.” This association of Hispanic family care providers in the Milwaukee area supports women working in the early childhood education field, and offers informational workshops to educate and provide quality services to families.
David Espinoza is a child development instructor at MATC who has been working in child care for more than 40 years.
“I met Carmen at MATC when she was taking classes,” Espinoza said. “Since graduating, she has worked with many people in the child care profession. I feel as though she is the leader of the pack here in Milwaukee.”
Responding to COVID-19
During the outbreak, Hernandez and her staff went through her facility and made modifications to keep the children as safe as possible. Some of the significant changes were adding daily cleaning checklists and new sanitization stations. Additionally, children’s temperatures were taken before and after they left the facility.
“The biggest challenge that I see is the educational piece,” said Hernandez. “We need to understand and follow the guidelines because otherwise, we are exposing ourselves and families unnecessarily.” Hernandez said she plans to keep the routine she has created.
“No place was ready for this situation and so it took everyone by surprise,” she added. “We must be prepared so that we can prevent things like this from happening. In order for this to work, we must have a clear understanding between the parents and the providers.”