Parents struggle to find night child care
Like many parents who work outside the traditional 9-to-5 on weekdays, Sunny Wilson has had to scramble to find child care for her daughter. She needs a caregiver with flexible hours because she works evenings at Red Lobster restaurant in Duluth ...
Like many parents who work outside the traditional 9-to-5 on weekdays, Sunny Wilson has had to scramble to find child care for her daughter.
She needs a caregiver with flexible hours because she works evenings at Red Lobster restaurant in Duluth and is a social work student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Wilson has lined up babysitters to care for 21-month-old Sage in their Superior home, only to have the arrangement fall apart when a sitter quit. Wilson considers herself lucky to have found a licensed child-care home that isn't just a good fit for Sage but is open 24 hours a day, six days a week.
In all of St. Louis County, only 16 licensed family child-care providers offer care 24 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Of those, only six in the Duluth area have openings, said Julie Fredrickson, coordinator of Child Care Resource and Referral, which serves the Arrowhead region.
An additional 16 family providers open between 5 and 6:30 a.m. and close between 11 and 11:59 p.m., she said.
The gap between supply and demand puts a lot of pressure on parents who work nontraditional hours. They often must turn to friends, family and neighbors to care for their kids.
"It's a real struggle to figure out," Fredrickson said. "Sometimes it's more than one person having to do the care."
In Minnesota, surveys have shown that about half of children in child care are in nonlicensed care, such as with grandparents, other relatives or neighbors, Fredrickson said.
When new providers go through the orientation process for licensing, they're encouraged to consider offering extended hours to meet the needs of parents, Fredrickson said.
A few years ago a grant helped her organization recruit providers to keep their businesses open longer hours. It also supplied money for providers to buy such things as sheets and cots, so children could stay into the night or overnight, she said
Most of the providers eventually discontinued the extended hours because they weren't keeping the slots filled, she said. "Most parents would like their children home in their own beds," Fredrickson said.
Some providers have tried to fill the need.
Observation Hill Child Care Center, open until 11:30 p.m., is the only Duluth center that keeps children late into the evening. Owner Patricia Irving said it's important to offer extended hours because a lot of parents work in the evening, especially in local hospitals.
Of the 150 children the center serves, about 30 are there during the evening, she said. At times, the number has been as high as 50, she added.
Joe and Steven Morales weren't planning to offer 24-hour care when they started child care in their Lincoln Park home in January.
Originally, the hours of their Little Giggles Child Care were 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. But in talking with parents, they encountered demand to stay open later. Now they're available to care for children 24 hours a day, six days a week. They take Sundays off.
In addition to Joe Morales' two children, they care for six others. Of those six, four use night-time care. The children typically stay until 10:30 or 11 p.m., but occasionally a child will stay overnight, Joe Morales said.
In her search for child care for Sage, Wilson interviewed several providers before visiting Little Giggles. She felt comfortable as soon as she walked in. A background check didn't turn up any problems.
Sage loves it at Little Giggles and talks about the people there all the time, Wilson said. Finding a good child-care fit for her daughter has been a relief for Wilson.
"I leave Sage here and I don't even worry about her," she said.
LINDA HANSON covers family issues and religion. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5335 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .