Daycare Needs Stretch Around The Clock

fromWUWM

As more people take shift work in the still struggling economy, the need for after hours child care has increased. Throughout the country, many daycare centers have begun offering evening hours or 24-hour care. Parents say their kids should be sleeping at home at night, but they have no choice but to work when jobs are available.

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With many workers taking second and third shift jobs to make ends meet, there's a growing demand for evening and overnight child care. While parents used to rush to pick up their kids from daycare by the 6 P.M., the traditional closing time, these days many centers are staying open much later, or even around-the-clock.

Erin Toner of member station WUWM visited a 24-hour facility in Milwaukee to learn about nighttime at day care.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN CHATTER)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Now, when I call it out, I want you all to spell out whatever word that I call out.

ERIN TONER, BYLINE: It's 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and a game of bingo is starting at Fantastic Beginnings, a daycare center in Milwaukee's inner city. It's small and a bit rundown, but it's cheerful, with bright yellow walls and cutouts of ladybugs hanging from the ceiling.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Was.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: W-A-S.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Good job. You.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Y-O-U.

TONER: This is a group of 8, 9 and 10 year olds. On the other side of the room, younger kids are sitting at a table working on puzzles. Four-year-old Tania spends part of her day at daycare, and also goes to sleep here some nights when her mother works second shift.

TANIA: I always like to go somewhere with my momma, but sometimes we don't. We can't go to work with her 'cause it's old people there.

TONER: Fantastic Beginnings is one of nearly 50 daycares in the city of Milwaukee that are licensed to operate 24 hours, and more than 100 stay open until 11 or midnight.

Owner Marilyn Barton says demand for nighttime care has been growing, and recently she's had to turn families away because she's at capacity at night.

MARILYN BARTON: This means that they have to try and put their job on hold, or either they just can't go to work at that time because they don't have anybody to take care of their children.

TONER: While national groups don't formally keep track of how many daycare centers offer non-traditional hours, it's clear that more are heading in that direction because families are taking shift work or second jobs to make ends meet.

Linda Kostantenaco is president of the National Child Care Association.

LINDA KOSTANTENACO: Some are offering what they call 24-hour child care, evening care, the extended hour care, weekends, you know, even Saturday and Sunday. Transportation to and from home, which was normally not done, but I know several people that are doing that now.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN CHATTER)

TONER: After the bingo game and a round of brownies for the kids, Contessa Powell arrives to gather her three-year old daughter. Today's pickup is early, but that's not the case most days.

CONTESSA POWELL: Sometimes I work from six to two, sometimes I work two to 10, sometimes I work from 10 to seven, so it's all over the place.

TONER: Powell's job is to pass out medication at a nursing home about a half-hour away. She says she wishes her little girl could go to sleep at home, but right now, day and night care is her only option.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)

POWELL: Hey. I'm all right, how are you? That's good.

TONER: It's now 9:30 at night at the 24-hour daycare Fantastic Beginnings. Sheikhnur Adan just arrived to pick up his four kids. The littlest ones had already fallen asleep. Adan drives a taxi at night and his wife has begun working for a cleaning service.

SHEIKHNUR ADAN: So it's a good place for the kids to be. It's a better place for them to be.

TONER: Adan loads his kids into his taxi and drives away. There are still two sleeping children left at the daycare. They'll be picked by a parent at around 2 o'clock in the morning.

For NPR News, I'm Erin Toner, in Milwaukee.

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