For many working parents, especially of elementary school aged children, securing childcare for the hours between when the school day ends and the work day ends is hugely problematic. Finding affordable providers and programs for that limited time gap can be a challenging task for many families.
When searching for after-school care, parents need to consider their child’s temperaments and interests, their own work schedule and the level of care they with their child to receive. All children should receive quality childcare, even if that care is limited to a few hours per week.
When it comes to after-school childcare, here are 5 popular options:
1. Use school sponsored after-school programs. Many schools provide after-school or late care for students, some of which are provided by the school and others which are hosted at the school but operated independently. These programs tend to be supervisory in nature, but may provide homework assistance. Children who are independent, require basic supervision and who have parents that just need just an hour or two of childcare coverage may be good candidates for these types of programs.
2. Enroll in daycares that offer transportation from school. Some center-based and family-based daycare centers provide transportation from the child’s school to their facility. It’s important to consider licensed and accredited programs that have clearly established standards of care. Children who need consistent, structured care and have parents who need care until 5 or 6 pm may be good candidates for after-school daycare.
3. Hire a part-time nanny. For parents who work hours that extend beyond what a program and daycare offers, hiring a part-time nanny can be the best choice. Parents can handpick their provider and with a nanny, the children receive one-on-one care, can participate in afterschool activities, have playdates and receive help with homework. Parents must carefully screen potential providers before offering them a position. Parents who want their children to receive more than supervision and to have the opportunity to participate in activities that they otherwise couldn’t may opt for a nanny. Nannies provide attentive, customized and personalized childcare and are responsible for meeting the needs of the children in their care.
4. Ask family or friends for help. When family and friends live close, sometimes they’re the best option or providing a few hours of childcare each day. Some networks of friends start childcare co-ops and swap and trade childcare, with moms who need assistance during the week providing care for others on the weekend. Children who have family and family friends that live close by and who are willing to help out may enjoy this after-school option. For parents on a tight budget, family and friend care is often the most feasible option.
5. Utilize programs offered by churches and recreation centers. In some communities, churches are recreation centers like the YMCA boast the most readily available and most affordable after-school childcare options. Like other after-school programs, these tend to be more supervisory in nature. For families actively involved in their church, a faith-based after-school program may be the perfect solution. For kids who love sports and are fairly independent, they may enjoy what a recreation center based program has to offer.
For parents with older children, allowing them to head home may be a viable option; however parents should carefully assess their child’s level of maturity and his ability to provide self-care before making that decision. Some states have specific laws regarding what age a child can be left at home unsupervised, so parents must check their state laws before deciding on that arrangement.