Day care provider Petroff celebrates 30 years of service to town’s youth

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Thirty years of day care, and Rona Petroff is still going strong on Church Street in Punxsutawney.

"When I first began taking care of children I really didn't understand what day care was all about," Petroff said, adding that originally she had taken a different job and was then contacted by Child Care Information Services (CCIS) to become a child care giver.

"The other job didn't work out, so I accepted the position of child care giver, and, here I am today, 30 years later, still giving care to children while their parents are away or working," Petroff said, adding that which children are assigned to her is done through CCIS.

According to the CCIS website, "Child Care Information Services (CCIS) agencies are the hub of child care information in our area. CCIS agencies provide individuals and their families with information on quality child care and personalized child care referrals to child care providers based on specific needs or preferences.

"CCIS agencies also administer the Child Care Works subsidized child care program," the website adds.

Petroff said the most children a child care giver may have is six, in addition to a number of children or grandchildren of his or her own.

Petroff's home — which serves as a second home to most of her children — reflects the fact that she provides care for kids, as the entire first floor is kid proofed.

She said there aren't many homes where one would see a Little Tikes plastic slide and jungle gym located in the dining room.

Petroff said the state has inspectors who come into her home at various times throughout the year unannounced.

"The inspector that was here today was from the food program and performs a spot check here to make sure that I'm feeding the kids healthy foods and checking out the cleanliness of my facilities, the kitchen and refrigerator," Petroff said, adding that she is reimbursed for the food she purchases. The food choices she makes are required to be healthy ones approved by CCIS.

Petroff said inspections by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) are random unless someone files a complaint with them.

"I've continued doing this for 30 years because I love children," she said. "I do become attached to the children, and I do cry when it's time for them to leave —usually once they begin kindergarten, some stay longer."

She said she cares for children from ages birth to 13 years of age.

"I spend more time with the kids than their parents do because they are gone all
day working; I'm kind of a second mom to these kids," Petroff said.

"My first child I cared for, I remember from 30 years ago, was Brenda Gearhart," she said.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Petroff said, adding that she doesn't know of any other life than that of day care.

She said she went on a short vacation this year for the first time in a long time.

Petroff said she does take the kids on field trips such as a trip to an Alpaca farm.

There is a craft person who comes to her house and works with the kids too.

"Someone asked which is tougher, 35 years of marriage or 30 years of day care?" Petroff said. "My husband, Jim, has his man cave where he goes while the kids are here, or he golfs. I won't choose one over the other, I've enjoyed them both."

For more information on the CCIS and its programs, one can call 1-877-4-PA-KIDS.