Banking time days, holiday, snow days and teacher in-services seem to creep up on the parents of school-aged kids and sometimes, they find themselves in quite a jam. Although most schools have before- and after-care programs, they’re usually closed when classes are not in session.
What’s a workin’ mom or dad to do?
The problem is that last-minute drop-in care is not available at most facilities. Milestones Programs for Children offers 15 care programs in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and Glendale. Milestones is open on days off, but extended, full-day care is only offered to kids already enrolled in the program.
“The child must be already licensed to come to Milestones. We don’t have any form of drop-in care,” says Cheryl Zagorski, director of Milestone’s school-age programs.
There are, however, three city groups — The YMCA, The Boys and Girls Clubs and Children’s Outing Association – offer drop-in child care if the parent has already registered the child and filled out the necessary emergency contact information.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee offers a program called School’s Out Days, a full-day program that allows parents to request child care strictly on days when schools are closed. Parents must register their kids prior to using the program and there is a fee, which varies.
“The YMCA School Age and Child Care Centers are not drop-in care centers during regular days, however we do try to help out when we are able during the times of unexpected circumstances,” says Christine Larson, YMCA’s regional program director for camp and school age care.
According to Larson, during unexpected needs for care or situations such as snow days, families can contact one of our three YMCA full time Child Care Centers: Northside YMCA (in Milwaukee), Dunwood YMCA (in Fox Point) and John C. Cudahy YMCA (in Milwaukee) to see if any additional spots might be available.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is one of the local organizations that offers infrequent care. Parents can take advantage of the Boys and Girls Clubs’ services at any time throughout the year, but a parent must bring the child to the branch for their first visit and fill out paperwork. The Boys and Girls Clubs has six branches and all of them are open during most days off. A membership is required to attend the program, but cost is only $5 for the entire year.
The Boys and Girls Clubs facilities are located at 2739 N. 15th St., 3000 N. Sherman Blvd., 1975 S. 24th St., 611 W. Cherry St., 3400 W. North Ave. and 4834 N. 35th St. The “clubs” are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but they have the option of early drop offs and later pick-ups if necessary. Meals are provided.
The Children’s Outing Association (COA), 909 E. North Ave., also offers full-day care programs on an as-needed basis.
“Parents just need to register, and then we welcome kids here for as few as one or two days a year,” says Keri Schroeder, the development and public relations director for COA.
The cost for the full-day child care at COA is negotiable and priced according to income.
Some programs offer child care on days off if there’s a need. Community Learning Centers (CLC) are before-and-after care programs that are inside Milwaukee Public Schools and run by the Boys and Girls Clubs. According to CLC aide Maria Alicea, she often puts out a sign-up sheet for parents to opt for care on days off, but the programs rarely get enough of a response to run.
“We need 20 kids to run the program on a day off, and we rarely have enough kids,” says Alicea.
Papia Goon is the director of child care at the YMCA Dunwood Child Care Center in Fox Point, and she says that her facility only opens on days that the schools are closed if there is a need for it.
“We need to have a minimum of 8-10 children signed up for the program in order to stay open,” says Goon.
“I get that there needs to be a certain number of kids enrolled to make it worth the cost of salaries, but I’m one of the 10 parents at my kids’ school that really, really needs the care and can’t get it. My parents and most of my friends live in another state. I don’t have a support network here yet,” says Whitley.
But the real challenge for working parents are snow days. Although schools close, most businesses do not, which forces some parents to scramble for last-minute care for the children.
“If the school is closed for a snow day, The Boys and Girls Clubs does not run programs. Basically, if it’s believed that it’s not safe for a kid to travel to school, they should not travel here, either,” says Joe Trevino, the senior director of operations of the Boys and Girls Clubs. “But, luckily, this doesn’t happen very often.”
LaTanya Clayton is the director of the Milwaukee Recreation Department’s Before and After Camp programs that run inside multiple Milwaukee Public Schools including Maryland Avenue Montessori School.
“Camp programs are open on snow days when the school district decides to close in the middle of the day, but we don’t open if the district decides to close before school starts,” she says.
COA is not open on snow days, either.
“Unfortunately, we can’t help parents here. It’s tough. I have had this issue myself,” says Schroeder.
A few years ago, East Side resident Heather Harlin came up with a grassroots solution to snow days and other days off from school. She and three other moms agreed to take turns calling into work and provide care for kids when school is closed.
“This has worked exceptionally well on snow days. It’s crazy having seven kids in your house at once, but it works,” says Harlin. “I wish we could figure out a fair way for us to tag-team on days when kids are sick.”
Harlin says the best part of the group is the flexibility.
“We do keep track of whose turn it is to watch the kids, but once in a while, if someone has something really important going on at work, they can switch last minute with another mom,” she says. “All the moms have already proven themselves to be responsible so it’s not a problem.”