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What are the safety guidelines for child care centers? Is there financial support for child care costs?

Last Updated: 09/21/2021

Child care centers are open for all clients.

If you need help finding child care, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Agency.

Indoor Mask Requirement

Effective Friday, September 24th, all employees, visitors, students, and children aged two and over must wear face masks, with limited exceptions including:

  • When doing so would inhibit the individual's health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors
  • When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious (including during periods of rest), incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face mask without assistance
  • When a student's documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face mask
  • When the individual is engaged in activity that cannot physically be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating or drinking, or playing a musical instrument that would be obstructed by a face mask
  • When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity
  • When a child or staff person is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education activity in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals
  • When wearing a face mask creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task

Individuals seeking a medical exemption from mask wearing will be required to produce written documentation from a medical professional. Self-attestations and parental attestations are not sufficient.

Vaccination/Testing Requirement for Personnel

All part-time and full-time staff at child care centers are required to be fully vaccinated or submit to ongoing weekly testing by November 1st, 2021.Impacted child care personnel include:

  • Administrators,
  • Teachers,
  • Individuals providing food, custodial, and administrative support services, and
  • Contractors, providers, and any other individuals performing work in child care centers whose job duties require them to make regular visits, including volunteers.

Additional Safety Guidelines

Child care centers must follow all safety guidelines detailed by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Health, including:

  • Daily on-site screening of children, staff and visitors for symptoms of COVID-19; or daily staff, parent/child, and visitor self-reporting of symptoms of COVID-19 at or prior to arrival
  • Persons who have a fever or other signs of COVID-19 illness as outlined in the Department of Health COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Operating Child Care Facilities, shall not be admitted to the facility.
  • Children aged 2 and over shall continue to be taught, and strongly encouraged, to use masks whenever social distancing cannot be maintained in both indoor and outdoor settings.
  • Children shall be grouped into groups of no more than 30. Classes shall include the same group of children each day, to the greatest extent possible.
  • Designated groupings shall not congregate less than six feet in all directions from other designated groups or, in the alternative shall be separated by walls or other physical partitions.
  • Combining or mixing groups shall not be permitted except that Centers may permit the limited comingling of groups during periods when total attendance is substantially decreased.
  • Staff shall be required to wear masks at all times in indoor and outdoor settings unless precluded from doing so by a medical or developmental condition documented in a letter from the staff member's treating physician, or when impracticable, such as when the individual is eating or drinking.
  • Toys and items that are not easily cleaned or disinfected (e.g., soft or plush toys) shall not be utilized in the center, though such items brought from home may be utilized if they are not shared and must be returned home with the child each day for washing.
  • Field trips off site are strongly discouraged but not prohibited. During transport, masks should be used and social distancing should be maintained to the greatest extent practicable, and centers shall adhere to the transportation related recommendations contained in the COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Operating Child Care Centers.
  • Close person to person contact (hugging, wrestling, games involving touching or tagging) shall be limited to the greatest extent possible, though centers should not punish otherwise age appropriate behavior.

For further details, see the Department of Health Executive Directive 21-004, the Department of Children and Families' Health Recommendations for Reopening, the Department of Children and Families' FAQ, and the Department of Children and Families' COVID-19 resources for licensed childcare.

Support for Child Care Costs

New Jersey's Child Care Subsidy Program can help lower-income families who are working, in training, in school, or a combination of these activities to pay a portion of their child care.

For more information and how to apply, visit childcarenj.gov.

Support for Child Care Centers

Grants are available to child centers to manage added operational costs due to new COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Eligible child care centers can apply for grants through the New Jersey Child Care Information System.

Sources: https://www.childcarenj.gov/Resources/Coronavirus, https://www.nj.gov/dcf/coronavirus_licensedchildcare.html, Guidance for New Jersey Child Care Facilities on COVID-19 Related Health and Safety Requirements;