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By Phil AcordGo to page: 1 2 3
When you go out to eat, do your shopping, or take in a movie, do you ever wonder who is caring for the children of that waitress, salesperson, and concession worker? If you live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, chances are the children are being cared for at the Children's Home Extended Child Care Program. In America today a higher percentage of mothers with young children are working, and not only are a significant percentage of those mothers single heads of household, but many of them are working non-conventional hours. The final factor to place in the equation is that recently the United States has experienced a mini baby boom, and families are reproducing at a higher rate than they have in several decades.
Loosely translated that means there are a larger number of children that need early childhood education and care services and with everything being proportionate, more odd hour and weekend care is needed. The Children's Home program is unique in that it is open 24 hours, 365 days a year, providing care for children from six weeks to 12 years of age on a sliding fee scale. We have designed the program to eliminate the usual access barriers to care: hours, ages cared for, and affordability.
There seem to be a number of extended hour programs and many of them are associated with hospitals, institutions of higher learning, or part of an entertainment entity such as an amusement park or gambling establishment. Recently I got a call from a prison that had been granted funds to do an extended early education and care program for the children of their guards.
If you are thinking about doing some type of extended care program in your community, there are several considerations for you to process.
Hours of Operation
First, decide what hours you are going to operate; 24/7, 365 is a heavy schedule that requires a lot of people and support. You need to fix your hours based on the service market of your community. If most of the jobs are in retail, then probably 18 hours per day are all that are needed, but you might need to provide care on weekendsor at least on Saturday until 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. The idea is to set your hours according to the needs of the families in the community you are serving.
One of the problems that you run into when you provide extended hours care is children often are left in care longer than they need to be. A single mother working more than one job will go from her 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to her part time job at a retail store from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and will want to leave her child in care from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. In Tennessee a parent has to get special permission to leave a child in care for more than 12 hours. Check with your licensing counselor to find out what the rule is about extended care in your state.
Ages of Children Served
One of the most important issues to decide when you provide extended care is what ages of children you are going to serve. In most states you cannot mix children under three years of age with children three and older. Presently, we are not doing care for children under three after 6:00 p.m. because the demand is not there. When we have served this age child we have had a separate room and teacher because Tennessee regulations will not allow us to mix this age with children three and older. Unless we have at least four children under three requesting care after 6:00 p.m. we cannot afford to open a classroom, hire a staff person, and serve that age. The structure at this time includes a classroom for three and four year olds and a separate classroom for school-age children.
The number of staff with each group depends upon the number of children being served. Usually after 9:30 p.m. you can combine groups because that is about the time you start putting children to bed. By 11:00 p.m. you can function with one staff because the numbers are low and the children are all sleeping. This is possible for us to do because we have a residential program in an adjoining building and the staff in that program are back-up in case of an emergency. Check with the regulations of your state to find out what is allowed during these hours.
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