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School's out

time for child-care difficulties

June 15, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Watching her 8-year-old daughter Andrea play at Hagerstown City Park Sunday afternoon, Denise Carter said she felt relieved knowing her two daughters would be occupied while she's working this summer.

"When school lets out, you've got to have it taken care of," said Carter, 41, who works the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift at her part--time job.

Carter said she started checking early to make sure Andrea would get a spot at the Boys and Girls Club summer day camp at Frederick Manor, which runs most of the summer.

"It really worked out good last year. She loved it," said Carter, who said the program offered her daughter a lot of different activities and was staffed with people who really took an interest in the kids.

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She said her older daughter Tyana, 15, is also doing the same thing she did last year - working a summer job that starts in a few weeks.

Carter is one of the lucky ones, according to Jeanne Stoner, a project specialist for Resources for Children and Families in Hagerstown, a nonprofit agency that introduces parents to various child-care options.

The agency, formerly Western Maryland Childcare Resource Center, gets a rush of calls from parents seeking alternate child care as the summer break from school approaches, Stoner said.

With roughly 70 percent of mothers working outside the home now, the summer break is a much bigger dilemma than it was 20 or 30 years ago, she said.

As of April, Washington County public schools enrolled 18,587 students from pre-school through 11th grade, according to Board of Education figures.

It's not just the school day that's left uncovered, Stoner said. A lot of schools also have after-school programs that end with the school year.

While there are summer day camps and recreation programs available, there still aren't enough that cover the full work day for parents, she said.

The Western Maryland Childcare Resource Center refers parents to licensed child-care providers in their area, Stoner said.

But the referral isn't a recommendation, nor does it mean the provider will have any open spots, she said.

"There really aren't enough providers throughout the year, but in the summertime, it's worse," Stoner said.

Even people who normally have their child-care needs sewn up often find themselves scrambling to fill in the gap when their child-care provider takes a summer vacation, she said.

That's the scenario Hagerstown mother Kay Williams said she is facing with her children, Gabrielle, 4, and Jordan, 3, whose part-time babysitter will take up the slack while their pre-school programs are on summer break.

Still, there's going to be a two- to three-week gap when the babysitter takes a summer vacation, said Williams, 31, who said she and husband, Al, both work full time.

"We try to rely on his mother, my mother and sisters-in-law. But it is a real dilemma," she said.

Williams said she'd like to see summer programs offered in the public schools, which would make use of the idle facilities and give teachers an opportunity to work over the summer.

In past years, Paul Armstrong said he and wife, Lu Ann, have taken advantage of Citicorp Credit Services' summer child-care program for employees.

But with their daughter, Kaitlin, 10, nearing the program's cutoff age, the Hagerstown couple decided to try something different this year, said Paul Armstrong, 40.

Armstrong said his wife will switch to a night shift for the summer so she can spend the days with Kaitlin and he can spend the evenings with her. The two hours their shifts overlap will be covered by a neighbor.

"We only have two more years, so we're trying to see how rearranging our schedules goes," he said.

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