This is a dilemma many working parents end up having. In addition to the extra expenses at school, now you must figure out how to get them there in the morning and get them home in the evening. Plus, what to do with them in between.
It’s likely you were a latchkey kid, but today, being a latchkey kid is not really something that is done as much. It’s not as safe as we thought, and in some states, it’s illegal. So, until your child is of an age to stay home legally, they should not be a latchkey kid. And keep in mind that the National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that children not be left alone at home under the age of 12.
When you’re looking at before and after-school child care, some areas have many options while others have very few. As much as the options vary, so does the cost. You can expect to spend between $50 and $250 a week depending on your area, transportation needs, and the age of your child.
One thing some parents are doing is using their PTO (paid time off) creatively. A group of parents who would normally share carpooling before everyone had to work, gets together and forms a car pool plus before and after child care alliance.
This involves parents taking time from work, using their flex time, or simply asking their boss if it is flexible to change working times just one day a week. This will work if every parent has a vehicle that will carry five kids. The kids end up at someone else’s home each day of the week, but it can be a lifesaver for budget-minded parents.
Finding Before and After-School Care
It can be hard to find the right before and after child care, but there are things in place in most communities. You can check out the Boys & Girls Club of America for some innovative situations that are inexpensive options for school-age children. But there are other options as well.
If you are lucky enough to have grandparents who live in the area and aren’t working, then just ask them. You may be surprised that they’ll be happy to provide before and after child care. You can drop the kids off at grandma’s house before you go to work and pick them up at grandma’s after work. Some grandparents will be happy to bring the kids to their home after work, and even drive them around to their extracurricular activities. If you have four grandparents available, that’s even better because hardly anyone has to do it two days a week.
Are there any neighbors who would be willing to provide before and after child care for your children? This is a consideration only if you truly know the neighbors, though. There isn’t a stay-at-home mom alive who hasn’t been asked by someone to watch a sick kid or perform some errand, as if they have nothing better to do. So be polite, ask people who are your friends, and understand if they don’t want to do it.
If you have a college nearby, there are probably opportunities for you to hire someone from college to deal with the before and after-school care and activity driving. Most colleges have a job board where you can list your job for the help. Be sure to list all your requirements and what it pays. If you have an extra room in your home, you can even offer room and board in lieu of payment, if it’s legal where you live.
Often friends want to help but they don’t want to interfere. Therefore, ask any friends that you know are not normally busy during that time. You might find one friend who can handle mornings and one that can handle afternoons. This can work great with the right friend and situation.
You may also know people who need things done that you or your partner (or kids) can do for them without them needing to pay anyone. Think about these things and then present your friend or acquaintance with the idea. For example, if your church offers an after-school program but you cannot afford it, ask if you can clean the church in exchange, or perform some other duty that will help pay for it.
Child Care Centers
You may not have considered it, but a lot of child care centers offer before and after school programs for kids. They can be pricey sometimes, but often the peace of mind is worth it if you can afford it. Like daycare, before and after care can also qualify for tax credits. Also, some centers charge on a sliding scale based on your income.
Finding before and after care can be expensive and time-consuming, as well as stressful. But, if you start early you’ll find it. If your child is already in daycare, do ask them because even if they don’t offer it, they may know people who do.