OWEGO — As students head back to school amid uncertain times, Tioga County has launched a 10-minute online survey for parents and guardians pertaining to childcare needs.

“On the state and national level, we’ve heard a lot of nebulous talk about a childcare crisis, so we wanted to see what that translates to in Tioga County,” said county Economic Development and Planning Deputy Director Brittany Woodburn. “We wanted to see what the immediate needs are for parents right now going into the school year.”

“The survey responses will assist us in gathering data to help understand the childcare needs of Tioga County residents,” explained Woodburn. “This includes challenges being faced by parents and guardians within the current state of the childcare system (and) gaps in coverage that they anticipate for the coming school year.”

The study also looks at the impact that another COVID-19 shutdown would have on the financial and economic well-being of families, households and local businesses — particularly if parents or guardians are faced with having to reduce hours at work, or leave employment all together to care for a child.

“We really just want to encourage all parents and guardians to lend their voice to this process, whether they are currently seeking childcare, or even if they may be all set for the coming school year,” Woodburn said. “It gives us the full picture of what the real needs are in Tioga County.”

“As a parent myself, I understand the difficult decision that parents and guardians everywhere are making about the upcoming school year, and the struggle involved in trying to find childcare coverage that works for their households,” Woodburn said. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, I think this survey will allow us, along with our partnering agencies, to take a hands-on approach to assessing and understanding the childcare needs within our community.”

Additionally, the process will hopefully result in concrete, individualized solutions for parents and guardians that are currently searching for quality childcare, Woodburn added.

Woodburn explained that, so far, the survey has shown a strong immediate need for before and after school childcare.

The county’s EDP department has connected with the school districts in regard to what existing programs are in place, and whether they have been impacted by COVID-19.

Resultantly, Woodburn explained, one program had a budget deficit that was likely going to suspend the program.

“We were able to direct them to a resource that’s hopefully going to be able to help them address that issue so they can continue to serve the community this year,” Woodburn explained. “Otherwise, they probably would have had to close that down this year.”

The survey — found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/7QMPSTG — was created through the concerted efforts of Team Tioga, the Department of Social Services, the Family Enrichment Network, several major employers, and all county school districts.

It will be active through Friday, Sept. 11.

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