After-School Programs, Vital to Working Parents, Coming Undone

"As schools open their doors this month and next, closings and cutbacks at thousands of after-school programs nationwide have parents scrambling to make alternative arrangements..."

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The ax is falling on after-school programs and working parents are scrambling to find a way to make ends meet while giving their kids a good quality of life. From the Wall Street Journal:

As schools open their doors this month and next, closings and cutbacks at thousands of after-school programs nationwide have parents scrambling to make alternative arrangements. Some are forging new child-care alliances with neighbors, or turning their work or sleep schedules upside down to watch their children after school. A growing number will leave young schoolchildren home alone, or in the care of siblings.

Taken together, the trend will mark a significant shift this fall in the quality of family and neighborhood life in some locales, forcing parents to find new ways of coping.

Parents who can afford it are digging deep to hire sitters, sparking a record surge in August job postings on child-care Web sites. Staffers at Care.com were astonished by a 50% increase in child-care postings between July and August, twice the usual seasonal rise, largely because of after-school cuts, says Chief Executive Sheila Marcelo. On SitterCity.com, child-care postings are up 37% from a year ago, says Chief Executive Genevieve Thiers, reflecting "a domino effect" of cutbacks.

Child-care costs will triple for some families. Parents typically pay about $3 to $4 an hour for after-school programs, located in settings ranging from schools to community centers, Ms. Marcelo says, based on a recent survey of 1,297 parents conducted by her Web site and a nonprofit child-care group. That cost compares with $10 to $15 an hour to hire a sitter, she says.

The cost spiral will take a heavy toll on Brigid Ehrenberg. Her 6-year-old son, Brandon, will likely be dropped from his New York City after-school program when school opens next week, because of fewer spaces due to funding cuts, says Ms. Ehrenberg, a bank client-service worker. Forced to hire a sitter at an estimated $200 a week, Ms. Ehrenberg says she will have to cut her budget somewhere else—most likely by dropping out of the college studies she has been pursuing on weekends to earn a stockbroker's license.

"My heart just stopped when I heard" about the cuts, she says. Brandon's father works evenings and can't care for him after school either.

Get the full scoop here.

Have any of you had to readjust your kids' after-school plans? What useful alternatives have you found?

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