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How is the 'care gap' handled in your area?

ASK THIS | April 24, 2007

The Care Crisis: What resources does your community have for children growing up in working families? Second in a series.

By E.J. Graff

As noted in the first article in this series, more than 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are in the workforce. Few American families can afford to keep a worker home for more than a few months after bringing home a new child. Once a child is in school, there’s often still a “care gap” between the end of the school day and the end of the parents’ workday. Some families solve this through “tag team” parenting, in which parents work alternate shifts so that someone is always home. Others make do in one way or another.

What resources does your community or region have available for these “care gaps” and how does it compare to other regions, states, and nations?

Georgia, Florida, and Oklahoma are the only states that finance universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds. Reporters elsewhere may want to find out why their states don’t. High-quality childcare has been widely shown to improve children’s well-being.

Q. What’s the quality of local early childhood education and other childcare options in your area?

Q. What childcare and afterschool standards does our community have, and how available is high-quality care?

Q. Are childcare and early childhood education workers paid enough to live on, or is there high turnover, which disrupts child development?

Q. What afterschool programs are available, and how does the cost compare with local families’ average incomes?

Q. What do low-income families do on school snowdays: Are there incidents in which parents have lost their jobs for staying home?

IDEA: Consider comparing quality and costs of local early childhood education options to those in Western European countries, where children are entitled to high-quality public care by the time they are between 30 months and four years, and where parents bear only a portion of the costs.

IDEA: If your community has a story in which a child is found locked in a car, or left home alone, investigate to see whether this is a low-income family’s childcare crisis: did a babysitter get sick, forcing the parents to choose between the child and the job?





Next: The Care Crisis: A fresh look at the needs of our community’s working families beyond the workplace.

Small Town Indiana
Posted by Joan Thompson -
04/29/2007, 03:06 PM

I moved back to small town Indiana from Houston two years ago. My son is 8, so I can't really speak for early childhood care or address all of your questions, but the small town school district we're in offers before and after school care for $1 per hour. They encourage the children to do their homework before playing. They are open on early release days, but for snow days and full days, there's not really good options other than family. In the summer, the local YMCA offers a summer program for $85/week or $20/day.

The quality of the caregivers could be better in both programs, but my son seems happy and enjoys attending. He is an A student and is well-adjusted.

I'm fortunate to live near family - if not, there are times where I would have had to take vacation and sick days to take care of my son. I'm a professional (MBA, work in IT organization at Fortune 500 company), so I am also able to work from home via a virtual network.

I do know that there are some hourly jobs where women lose their jobs when they need to take time off to take care of their children. And there have been storied in the newspaper about children being left alone while their mother worked and had no childcare options.

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