Question: My daughter is 11 years old and an only child. She is in 6th grade in a 6th – 8th Middle School this year. Up until this year there was a school district based child care program that she attended. She currently is going to a home day care for about an hour before and after school. I am concerned about supervision for her as she gets older. I do not believe that children should be unsupervised after school or during the summer, but as she gets older this is getting to be more of a challenge. Many day cares in my area won’t take children 12 or older, yet I don’t feel comfortable leaving her unsupervised and probably still won’t when she is in her teens, partly because we live out in a rural area and there are not close neighbors around if something should go wrong. I also think that lack of supervision for preteens and teens is a major reason why we have the problems that we do with our youth – too much unsupervised time on their hands – they have too much opportunity to get into trouble. I have contemplated staying at home, but that is just not economically feasible. Do you have some suggestions about what to do for supervision for the preteen and teenage child? I would really like to see school based programs started for after school and summer, and would appreciate finding out about any districts that have had success with that, and any other suggestions that you have.
Answer: I agree with you whole-heartedly on both points: 1. Older children need supervision and stimulating after school programs, and 2. School-based programs are an ideal choice for after school care for older children.
You may want to speak to your local PTA chapter or visit their website www.pta.org. The National PTA has a well-articulated position statement on the need for school-based after-school programs as well as a description of federal funding available to meet this urgent growing demand. With luck and hard work, you may be able to get local interest and support but that probably won’t help you with your personal situation this year.
As with any childcare situation, the solution lies in networking, networking, networking! Talk to everyone possible about your situation, even the most unlikely person may know of someone or something that will match your needs. Talk to parents and staff at your daughter’s school for recommended privately operated programs. Call the local YMCA and local churches for their programs. Contact area high schools or colleges for “teen buddies” or “big sisters” that could be paid as sitters and plan age appropriate activities (resources are available on-line or at area bookstores). Contact The National Association of ChildCare Resource and Referral Agencies (www.naccrra.net) for local resources and possibly even support establishing new programs in your area.
Lastly, identify another middleschooler with an at-home parent who might be interested in providing after-school care for your child and hers. Home day care can still work even if your daughter is the oldest child in the home. Schedule time to discuss your concerns with your caregiver. Bring suggestions for stimulating age-appropriate activities that would make your daughter feel like she is fully participating in the experience. Research shows that mixed age groupings most closely reflect the composition of natural families and can benefit all children. Possibly, you and the caregiver could plan activities in which your daughter is her “helper,” giving your daughter a sense of pride and responsibility. I know you will make great decisions for your daughter and maybe even additional benefits for your community.
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.