When you're a kid, nothing says freedom quite like summer. School's out, marking the end of all your childhood obligations for a few months. Sadly, once adulthood hits, that's over and summer can turn stressful fast. Many working parents dread summer for the exact reason their kids love it. School being out means you need to secure child care, a feat easier said than done. In fact, as a new report has found, many working parents often struggle to find child care in the summer months and it can lead to serious issues. On top of the personal stress the quest for summer child care can create, it can also affect parents professionally as well.
News research from the Center for American Progress, a nonprofit organization, has found that a lack of options for child care during the summer months can force working parents to choose between work and family, which no one should ever have to do. According to the new report, a majority of children in the United States have two working parents, sometimes on differing schedules, which can further complicate things, of course.
The survey conducted by the Center for American Progress — which included about 1,000 parents of kids between the ages of 0 to 13 — found that about 73 percent of respondents had "at least some difficulty finding child care during the summer," which can be due to a slew of factors, such as cost, availability, and distance.
Cost is a big factor for many families when it comes to summer child care. Full-day child care for two months is expensive and summer camps can cost thousands of dollars — an issue I, myself, have run into with my own son. In fact, according to the American Camp Association (ACA) camps generally range anywhere from $100 a week to $500 or more a week, as Care.com reported.
If summer camp isn't suitable, hiring a nanny is another option, depending on your financial situation, of course. According to PayScale.com, nannies charge about $74 per hour, but this figure can vary. Still, that figure amounts to more than $6,000 for two months, meaning it's not an option for everyone.
Basically, what working parents face when school is out is called the "Summer Care Gap," according to a 2018 report from New America, a non-partisan think tank. The "Summer Care Gap" forces some parents to get creative; many rely on parent care from friends or family members who are available, while others are forced to leave children of an appropriate age home alone. About 44 percent of parents surveyed by New America said they relied on the former option, while just 26 percent said they sent their kids to day camps, 9 percent sent them to sleep-away camps, and a mere 1 percent relied on daycare. Almost half the parents surveyed by New America — 46 percent, to be precise — said it was difficult to find care for children between the ages for 4 and 14.
Indeed, difficulty finding child care in the summer is common and ultimately forces families to make difficult decisions, as the Center for American Progress found in its survey. Some go as far as considering a job change; according to the report, 57 percent of families said "at least one parent plans on making a change to their job that is likely to result in a smaller paycheck." Other parents reported that they'd saved up vacation and sick time to use in the summer to care for their children. Meanwhile, 17 percent of parents said they utilize unpaid sick time and 13 percent reported that they'd "leave the workforce" to provide summer care for their children.
The proof is in the pudding. Finding summer care for kids is way harder than it should be. When it's actually available, it's extremely expensive which creates barriers to entry for low-income families or large families. No working parent should have to choose between family and career or have to sneak their kids into work with them. It's time for a serious change to the way policymakers approach summer care — and it starts with parents speaking up about the struggle.