Ah, summer: the beach, the barbecues ... the mad scramble to find child care for school-age children.
The arrangements that worked fine during the school year may no longer be available or appropriate once the final bell rings. Even children capable of staying alone for a couple of hours after school may not be ready to be on their own all day, every day, for three months. To keep their kids supervised and occupied, many parents find themselves assembling a patchwork of resources, either for the sake of interesting variety or simply to cover all those wide-open days.
Some popular options:
Friends, relatives or neighbors: The most popular option, which about half of families used at least part of the time, according to a 2009 state child-care survey conducted by Wilder Research and the state Department of Human Services. For parents, this can be a juggle but the price -- often free -- is right.
Center-based programs, supervised activities, licensed family care and in-home care: These programs are offered in schools, parks, the YMCA, churches, golf courses. Again, this could mean parents need to coordinate drivers and juggle their work schedules. Cost can be a factor, as well. In the metro area, the weekly price of care for a school-age child averages $132 for a family child care program and $193 for a child-care center. Prices are lower outside the metro area.
In-home care, such as a nanny or manny: Often paid by the hour, they will provide child care in your home. For parents, it's a convenience to have your children be in their own home and neighborhood. Nannies are also often able to drive children to activities. The downside is the cost: Clients of College Nannies & Tutors pay a $395 placement fee and $16 an hour for a steady nanny of either gender.When can a child be left home alone?
The survey found that 36 percent of children between ages 10 and 12 -- and 15 percent of children ages 6 to 9 -- are left on their own at least part of the time during the summer. For 6 percent of kids in the 10 to 12 age group, "self-care" is the primary form of care.
"Half of the parents who use self-care as their primary arrangement for 10- to 12-year-olds say they use it due to cost," the researchers reported.
County social service agencies generally don't recommend leaving children home alone before they're 12. Karen Fogolin, associate director of the Minnesota Child Care Resource & Referral Network, said not all children are ready even then.
Network officials recommend evaluating an individual child's comfort with being alone, ability to respond effectively to emergencies and so on.
"What we like to talk to families about is knowing their child, preparing for this, doing test runs, so they're confident that their child can stay home alone," Fogolin said.