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Children's artwork brightens a door in West Feliciana. Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge partnered with the West Feliciana Hospital in St. Francisville to provide child care respite centers reserved for essential workers in medical facilities.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many child-care centers across the state have temporarily closed. Parents and caregivers have been left wondering how to take care of their children, a news release said. This rings especially true for health care professionals throughout our state.

Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge stepped up to help alleviate this burden.

The group partnered with the West Feliciana Hospital in St. Francisville to provide child care respite centers reserved for essential workers in these medical facilities. Many departments have used the service, including nursing, lab, IT and management departments as well as the local Sheriff's Office.

West Feliciana Hospital human resource director Tara McLin said employees are taking advantage of the service, and that it helps keep vital staff working, maintains hospital and clinic operations; and continues to provide services to patients.

"To be able to offer these services to our staff has been a significant help, so they don't have to worry about their child care needs during this already difficult time," McLin said. "If we didn't offer this program, it would add to the complexities of our operations as the employees would not be able to work during such a time when they are greatly needed."

"We are so pleased to be able to provide support at this challenging time for essential, front-line workers," said Karen Powell, regional director of Partnerships in Child Care Division VOAGBR. "I am so proud and appreciative of the expertise of our own child care coaches who have set up and supported this respite care and of the area child care teachers we have hired to staff this care, while their own child care centers have been closed during the height of the pandemic. We are grateful that our work could make one aspect of these children's and families' lives easier."

Parents aren't the only ones enjoying the centers. McLin said children attending have loved the program, including one child who asked if it would continue.

"The team at VOA has been phenomenal as far as getting things up and running quickly and smoothly," McLin said. "They have been flexible and compassionate with our team and making the whole experience enjoyable, providing some relief to the staff here."