Child care choices limited for those working outside 9-to-5

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A child looks out from a school bus at the Daesungdong Elementary School.
REUTERS/Kim
Hong-Ji


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Heather Peele is just like any other mom rushing
to pick up her child at day care after work. Except, it’s 2:30
a.m., and her 6-year-old daughter has been sleeping for hours at
a 24-hour child care center near the Las Vegas airport.

Parents like Peele, a casino cocktail waitress, who work outside
traditional business hours often are lost in the national
conversation about access to child care and early education.

“I’m just in survival mode right now,” said Peele, who is
thankful she found a safe, clean and affordable facility for her
daughter while she works, sometimes until 4 a.m. She pays about
$40 a day for 10 hours of care.

In many cases, the children of shift workers are cared for by
relatives or friends in unofficial capacities. Those without such
a support network have few, if any, options.

The National Survey of Early Care and Education said in a 2015
report that just 2 percent of the child care centers it surveyed
offer child care in the evening. Six percent provide overnight
care and 3 percent have weekend hours.

“It’s a huge issue. We have an increasingly service-based economy
with non-standard hours, that’s more heavily concentrated in
lower income groups,” said Taryn Morrissey, a child development
expert and professor at American University. “The child care
sector hasn’t really caught up with the realities of hours
parents are working.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., proposed legislation Thursday
designed to increase access to affordable child care, including
for families that work non-traditional hours. Murray called the
bill “a smart investment in our children, our future and our
economy,” but its future is far from certain in a
Republican-controlled Congress.

Child Care Aware of America said that last year at least 65,000
families in 28 states sought child care outside the usual
workday. The other states don’t keep track, according to Yvette
Sanchez Fuentes, deputy chief of public policy and research at
the non-profit, which works with state child care referral
agencies.


Daycare childcare
Daycare.

Kids
Work Chicago Daycare/flickr.com



“The systems that we have — day care, Head Start, Pre-K — a lot
of that began years and years ago, when we had different needs,”
Sanchez Fuentes said. “Families are changing and communities are
changing.”

Even in Las Vegas, an entertainment and gambling destination long
notorious for blurring the hours of a day, the availability of
24-hour child care is limited.

Peele, a 42-year-old single mother, was sent scrambling when the
child care center at the MGM Grand casino-hotel property stopped
offering 24-hour service. Day care centers at casinos off the Las
Vegas Strip also have closed or cut back hours in recent years.
In Nevada, about two dozen out of 450 licensed child care centers
are open around the clock.

“I was shocked,” Peele said of her few options. “I know I’m not
the only one.”

She enrolled her daughter at the McCarran International Child
Development Center, adjacent to but unaffiliated with the airport
and just minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip.

The for-profit center opened last year, offering care 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year, for up to 12 hours a day per child. It
requires just a day’s notice for babies, and two-hour notice for
kids up to 12 years old. About half of the caregivers have some
sort of college education, primarily two-year associates degrees.

Peele’s daughter is one of 141 children enrolled.

On a recent weekday evening, five caregivers cared for about two
dozen children, ranging in age from infants to school-aged. The
kids’ art adorned the walls, music played in the background and
children ran around playing.

The children were served a dinner of breaded chicken with
potatoes. By about 9 p.m., they had brushed their teeth and
changed into pajamas for bedtime.

Owner Nicolas Del Balso, 64, who retired to Las Vegas after
running day care centers in Canada, said staffing the facility is
challenging. Many applicants say they’re willing to work odd
hours only to insist on a daytime schedule after they’re hired.

“The labor market is transient and that affects everything,” he
said. “Your day care is a reflection of your society.”

Del Balso said flexibility is critical for the center and its
customers. Most day cares that close at a determined time demand
promptness, charging by the minute for parents running late.

Precyla Escobar, 24, who works at a hospital lab, said she’s
dropped off her 2-year-old son, Zeke, at the McCarran center as
early as 4 a.m., and picked him up past 7 p.m.

“I feel like they’re my family,” Escobar said. “It’s really hard
to find a place that will take care of your kid.”

Peele’s daughter, Kiina Amado, said she doesn’t mind sleeping on
a cot alongside a dozen other kids at night. The first-grader and
aspiring dentist-dancer said it’s hard sometimes to be woken up
in the middle of the night to go home. And then there’s that
other, occasional, problem:

“I forget my pajamas,” Kiina said.



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