Child care choices limited for those working outside 9-to-5

LAS VEGAS — Heather Peele is just like any other mom rushing to pick up her child at day care after work. Except, it’s 2:30 a.m., and her 6-year-old daughter has been sleeping for hours at a 24-hour child care center near the Las Vegas airport.

Parents like Peele, a casino cocktail waitress, who work outside traditional business hours often are lost in the national conversation about access to child care and early education.

“I’m just in survival mode right now,” said Peele, who is thankful she found a safe, clean and affordable facility for her daughter while she works, sometimes until 4 a.m. She pays about $40 a day for 10 hours of care.

In many cases, the children of shift workers are cared for by relatives or friends in unofficial capacities. Those without such a support network have few, if any, options.

The National Survey of Early Care and Education said in a 2015 report that just 2 percent of the child care centers it surveyed offer child care in the evening. Six percent provide overnight care and 3 percent have weekend hours.

“It’s a huge issue. We have an increasingly service-based economy with non-standard hours, that’s more heavily concentrated in lower income groups,” said Taryn Morrissey, a child development expert and professor at American University. “The child care sector hasn’t really caught up with the realities of hours parents are working.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., proposed legislation Thursday designed to increase access to affordable child care, including for families that work non-traditional hours. Murray called the bill “a smart investment in our children, our future and our economy,” but its future is far from certain in a Republican-controlled Congress.

Child Care Aware of America said that last year at least 65,000 families in 28 states sought child care outside the usual workday. The other states don’t keep track, according to Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, deputy chief of public policy and research at the non-profit, which works with state child care referral agencies.

“The systems that we have — day care, Head Start, Pre-K — a lot of that began years and years ago, when we had different needs,” Sanchez Fuentes said. “Families are changing and communities are changing.”

Even in Las Vegas, an entertainment and gambling destination long notorious for blurring the hours of a day, the availability of 24-hour child care is limited.

Peele, a 42-year-old single mother, was sent scrambling when the child care center at the…

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