According to a new study, nearly half of Illinois parents with children under age 14 are working evenings and weekends and are having a difficult time finding quality child care.
The study, done by Illinois Action for Children, found that of all full-time, childcare centers and homes in Illinois, only 16 percent offered evening care, 11 percent offered night-time care and 8 percent offer weekend care.
The report, titled Working Later in Illinois: Work Schedules, Incomes, and Access to Child Care, was released late this summer.
The report found that 2-and-half million people in Illinois regularly work “non-traditional” schedules rather than the traditional 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday job.
Those work hours are becoming even rarer for lower-income families, researchers note.
“This is all the more disconcerting because the primary parents that work non-traditional hours are those in lower-paying jobs,” said Peter Gray, communications project manager for Illinois Action for Children, a family advocacy group. “There needs to be more daycare centers devoted to adhering to parents that work such hours.”
The group’s report was based on data collected through a 2004 Census report looking at childcare options for children throughout the country.
Jobs generally classified as non-traditional include those in the food and service industry, and in retail or lower-echelon health care industries, where parents work longer hours for lower pay, researchers said.
The non-traditional workforce is a growing, but still under-served market, researchers note.
The lack of daycare providers for night- and weekend-working parents stirred Illinois Action for Children to study the issue.
“One reason I can think of for the lack or overnight, evening and weekend daycare centers is the trust issue that arises with leaving your children out of your care for extended periods of time,” said David Alexander, director of research for the family advocacy group. “Many centers could believe making their center ‘overnight-adaptable’ (adding beds, fixing dinners) would make them lose money because some parents would not allow it.”
Traditional daycare centers have other issues for not serving the non-traditional workforce, noted Ruth Kimble, owner of Channing Childcare, 5701 W. Division, and executive director of the Austin Childcare Providers Network.
Kimble said the lack of benefits and adequate pay at some daycare centers prevent them from staying open on evenings and weekends.
“People who work at daycare centers have no medical, no dental and no more than $8.50 per-hour salary, so why would they work evenings?” Kimble asked. “Consequently, the turnover is high and resentment builds up. Asking them to work weekends would be the last straw.”
Ruth Krupiczowicz, director of the Sunny Days Learning Center in Berwyn, added that daycare center personnel also have children of their own and are not able to work evenings or weekends.
Sunny Days offers only weekday hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and most of its staff are certified and have more flexibility regarding their work hours.
Krupiczowicz estimated that about five percent of the parents who come into her center inquire about receiving child care after 6 p.m. and weekends.
“We generally direct them to Family Childcare Providers, which are usually based in someone’s home and generally operate on non-traditional schedules,” she said.
Kimble adds that state funding could help centers to increase salaries and benefifs, which could then increase options for parents. Currently, there’s no such funding, Kimble noted.
“That is what the daycare center workers want,” she said. “If you go through four years of college and teacher certification, you want benefits at your job, right? It just does not happen for them.”
For a copy of the full report, visit www.actforchildren.org/reports.