Choices lim­ited for those work­ing out­side 9-to-5 BY SALLY HO

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION -

Heather Peele is just like any other mom rush­ing to pick up her child at day care after work. Ex­cept, it’s 2:30 a.m., and her 6-year-old daugh­ter has been sleep­ing for hours at a 24-hour child care cen­ter near the Las Ve­gas air­port.

Par­ents like Peele, a casino cock­tail wait­ress, who work out­side tra­di­tional busi­ness hours of­ten are lost in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about ac­cess to child care and early ed­u­ca­tion.

“I’m just in sur­vival mode right now,” said Peele, who is thank­ful she found a safe, clean and af­ford­able fa­cil­ity for her daugh­ter while she works, some­times un­til 4 a.m. She pays about $40 a day for 10 hours of care.

In many cases, the chil­dren of shift work­ers are cared for by rel­a­tives or friends in un­of­fi­cial ca­pac­i­ties. Those with­out such a sup­port net­work have few, if any, op­tions.

The Na­tional Sur­vey of Early Care and Ed­u­ca­tion said in a 2015 re­port that just 2 per­cent of the child care cen­ters it sur­veyed of­fer child care in the evening. Six per­cent pro­vide overnight care and 3 per­cent have week­end hours.

“It’s a huge is­sue. We have an in­creas­ingly ser­vice-based econ­omy with non-stan­dard hours, that’s more heav­ily con­cen­trated in lower in­come groups,” said Taryn Mor­ris­sey, a child devel­op­ment ex­pert and pro­fes­sor at Amer­i­can Univer­sity. “The child care sec­tor hasn’t re­ally caught up with the re­al­i­ties of hours par­ents are work­ing.” Sen. Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash., pro­posed leg­is­la­tion Thursday de­signed to in­crease ac­cess to af­ford­able child care, in­clud­ing for fam­i­lies that work non-tra­di­tional hours. Mur­ray called the bill “a smart in­vest­ment in our chil­dren, our fu­ture and our econ­omy,” but its fu­ture is far from cer­tain in a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Congress.

Child Care Aware of Amer­ica said that last year at least 65,000 fam­i­lies in 28 states sought child care out­side the usual work­day. The other states don’t keep track, ac­cord­ing to Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, deputy chief of pub­lic pol­icy and re­search at the non-profit, which works with state child care re­fer­ral agen­cies.

“The sys­tems that we have — day care, Head Start, Pre-K — a lot of that be­gan years and years ago, when we had dif­fer­ent needs,” Sanchez Fuentes said. “Fam­i­lies are chang­ing and com­mu­ni­ties are chang­ing.”

Even in Las Ve­gas, an en­ter­tain­ment and gam­bling des­ti­na­tion long no­to­ri­ous for blur­ring the hours of a day, the avail­abil­ity of 24-hour child care is lim­ited.

Peele, a 42-year-old sin­gle mother, was sent scram­bling when the child care cen­ter at the MGM Grand casino-ho­tel prop­erty stopped of­fer­ing 24-hour ser­vice. Day care cen­ters at casi­nos off the Las Ve­gas Strip also have closed or cut back hours in re­cent years. In Ne­vada, about two dozen out of 450 li­censed child care cen­ters are open around the clock.

“I was shocked,” Peele said of her few op­tions. “I know I’m not the only one.”

She en­rolled her daugh­ter at the McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Child Devel­op­ment Cen­ter, ad­ja­cent to but un­af­fil­i­ated with the air­port and just min­utes away from the Las Ve­gas Strip.

The for-profit cen­ter opened last year, of­fer­ing care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for up to 12 hours a day per child. It re­quires just a day’s notice for ba­bies, and two-hour notice for kids up to 12 years old. About half of the care­givers have some sort of col­lege ed­u­ca­tion, pri­mar­ily twoyear as­so­ci­ates de­grees.

Peele’s daugh­ter is one of 141 chil­dren en­rolled.

On a re­cent week­day evening, five care­givers cared for about two dozen chil­dren, rang­ing in age from in­fants to school-aged. The kids’ art adorned the walls, mu­sic played in the back­ground and chil­dren ran around play­ing.

The chil­dren were served a din­ner of breaded chicken with pota­toes. By about 9 p.m., they had brushed their teeth and changed into pa­ja­mas for bed­time.

Owner Ni­co­las Del Balso, 64, who re­tired to Las Ve­gas after run­ning day care cen­ters in Canada, said staffing the fa­cil­ity is chal­leng­ing. Many ap­pli­cants say they’re will­ing to work odd hours only to in­sist on a day­time sched­ule after they’re hired.

“The la­bor mar­ket is tran­sient and that af­fects ev­ery­thing,” he said. “Your day care is a re­flec­tion of your so­ci­ety.”

Del Balso said flex­i­bil­ity is crit­i­cal for the cen­ter and its cus­tomers. Most day cares that close at a de­ter­mined time de­mand prompt­ness, charg­ing by the minute for par­ents run­ning late.

Pre­cyla Es­co­bar, 24, who works at a hospi­tal lab, said she’s dropped off her 2-year-old son, Zeke, at the McCar­ran cen­ter as early as 4 a.m., and picked him up past 7 p.m.

“I feel like they’re my fam­ily,” Es­co­bar said. “It’s re­ally hard to find a place that will take care of your kid.”

Pre­cyla Es­co­bar holds her two-year-old son Zeke on Wed­nes­day at the McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Child Devel­op­ment Cen­ter in Las Ve­gas. Those who work out­side of the 9-to-5 are lost in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion over ac­cess to child care and early ed­u­ca­tion....

Dar­ian Tharp reads dur­ing bed­time Thursday at the McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Child Devel­op­ment Cen­ter, a 24-hour day care in Las Ve­gas. AP PHOTO

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