Feature Articles — Child Care
Finding summer care for school-age children has unique challenges, opportunities
Working parents often have difficulty arranging suitable care for their school-aged children during the school year. Finding all-day programs for their youngsters during the summer can be even more difficult.
“The problem of what the kids will do after school becomes one of what they will do all day, five days a week, for the eight to 10 weeks that school is closed,” said Renette Wardlow, human development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
The pressure parents are under depends on the ages of their children according to Wardlow. The term “school age” usually refers to three age groups lumped together. Five- to 8-year-olds are one group and is considered the most vulnerable to lack of care. Nine- to 11-year-olds are another difficult group. Some of these children, particularly in the older age range, will insist that they are old enough to care for themselves. Finally, 12- to 14-year-olds are simply not candidates for formal programs, but many of these children need to be around adults and to participate in meaningful ways in their communities.
“When making child care arrangements, parents need to consider their own family situations and the individual needs of their children. Another consideration is the community,” said Wardlow.
Safety is probably the number one concern for parents of school-age children. Access to wholesome, interesting, age-appropriate activities for their children is another concern, especially in rural areas where transportation is a problem. Finding suitable programs can be a major hurdle.
“Some parents are able to make summer time arrangements for their school agers within their own family or social networks. Other parents fill the summer days with a patchwork of child care arrangements like two weeks at camp, a week with grandparents, a week for the family vacation, and so forth,” said Wardlow.
For families with more than one child, these arrangements can become expensive and very complicated. Family day care is a popular option for many parents during the summer, since the family day care home is usually located in the child’s own neighborhood.
“Some communities also offer summertime opportunities for teenagers to get involved with community projects, or to work with younger children in day care settings and youth camps during the summer months,” said Wardlow.
For more information, contact either of MU Extension’s human development specialists in southwest Missouri: Renette Wardlow at (417) 581-3558 or Dr. Jim Wirth at (417) 881-8909.
Last update: Tuesday, June 04, 2013