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Study: Parents Juggling Kids Care

March 7, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ On some mornings, Nikole Rendon awakens at 2:15 a.m. to get her baby to day care so she can report to work as a hotel reservationist by 4:15 a.m. On other days, Rendon’s mother takes care of the infant.

The 20-year-old single mother isn’t alone in juggling day-care arrangements. More than a third of working parents depend on more than one option, using day-care centers part of the time and relying on friends, relatives or neighbors to watch their youngsters on other occasions, according to a new study.

About 30 percent of parents have two child-care arrangements for children and another 8 percent are using at least three, a survey of more than 44,000 households by the Urban Institute showed.

With more women in the workplace _ many in jobs that involve nights and weekend hours _ and a dearth of formal day-care centers that stay open during nontraditional hours, parents are scrambling to find child care that fits their schedules, say experts. The choices are especially limited for low-income families.

At $8.25 an hour, Rendon is making more than she could at other available jobs and there are more chances for promotions, and a better schedule, she said.

She said she was lucky to find a woman through her church who cares for children in her home just five minutes away from Rendon in Battle Ground, Wash. For now, she takes her baby there and leaves her 20-month-old to sleep for another few hours with her mother, who’ll drive the child over to the day-care home later on. Rendon picks them up at 1:30 p.m.

``I like my early mornings so I can go home and be with them,″ said Rendon. ``But I find myself falling asleep with them instead of playing with them.″

More than 15 million people worked nontraditional hours in 1997, the latest year for which statistics are available.

That number is expected to increase. Occupations with a high number of employees working nights and weekends are expected to account for 27 percent of all job growth over an 11-year period that ends 2005, according to report by the Washington State Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

The Urban Institute survey, part of a multiyear project looking at federal and state social programs, found that 65 percent of parents juggling multiple child-care arrangements use a combination of formal daycare centers, Head Start programs and baby-sitting by relatives and friends.

Twenty percent use two separate day-care centers.

``They are trying to patch arrangements together instead of applying one arrangement that covers all the hours they work,″ said Jeffrey Capizzano, research associate in the group’s population studies center who co-authored the report.

Infants and toddlers are the least likely to be in multiple care arrangements, according to the survey. Forty-four percent of 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are in two or more, compared to 34 percent of younger children. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

There are no national statistics on the number of day-care centers that operate in the evenings and on weekends, but child-care experts say supply doesn’t meet demand, which has increased in recent years as people coming off welfare found jobs in restaurants, cleaning services and other places that require them to work at night and on weekends.

In King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, 2 percent of day care centers and 14 percent of private homes that operate as day care centers will take children in the evening. Even fewer take kids on weekends.

But many parents are looking for just that kind of care. About 13,000 _ or 28 percent _ of the nearly 46,000 requests to a statewide child care referral service in 1998 were for nonstandard hour care, according to the Washington state report.

The state offers child care providers an extra $108 child per month for every child they take during off-hours.

``It’s an incentive for centers to take these kids,″ said Elizabeth Bonbright Thompson, executive director of the Washington referral network.

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On the Net: Department of Health and Human Service’s Child Care Bureau: http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/ccb

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