For working parents, after-school care is a serious and challenging matter. Up until middle school, the arrangements are fairly straightforward. In many cases, especially in Montgomery County, there are on-site after-care programs, run by organizations such as Wonders Child Care and Kids After Hours.
Parents know they can count on these programs to supervise homework, provide a snack and organize age-appropriate activities every day after school, on early release days and even on some school holidays.
Such is not the case once middle school begins. “Susan,” a Kensington mother, is very concerned about the after-school care choices that will be available to her rising middle school daughter come September.
While the school offers after-school activities three days a week and transportation via an activity bus, this is not quite reliable enough. The after-school programs don’t start right away, they are not offered every day, and there is nothing on professional days, early release days or school holidays.
She does not want be an imposition on friends or neighbors and is not comfortable having her daughter come home to an empty house for several hours every afternoon. She is worried about finding a regular, reliable and flexible after-care arrangement.
According to Joanne Hurt, executive director of Wonders Child Care, a before- and after-school care program at several local elementary schools, “Middle school is a real transitional time for both children and parents. Many kids are ready for more autonomy and are not interested in after-school care, but parents want to make sure that their child is safe and supervised.”
There’s a reason that Wonders and other local programs do not provide daily after-care at middle schools.
“There just aren’t enough kids who will participate in such a program to make it viable,” Hurt said.
Nevertheless, it is still an issue for many families. One good option is to advertise for help at local college campuses. There are lots of experienced, responsible college students with flexible schedules looking for part-time work.
The downside to this arrangement is that class schedules change each semester, and sometimes projects and exams take priority, leaving your kids without a plan.
Wonders is very connected to its families and is open to helping an occasional middle-school family by creating age-appropriate leadership and community service opportunities for a child who comes back to the elementary school program after school.
But, meanwhile, parents like Susan are scrambling to find a reliable, safe, age-appropriate solution for those daily after-school hours and the days when school and work schedules just don’t mesh.
With school less than two months away, it’s time to get rolling.