Summer Can Heat Up Child Care Challenges. We Have Tips and Resources!

By GEEARS in The Saporta Report

Summer child care can be daunting

What’s the most challenging part of being a working parent or caregiver? Many will tell you—child care! Finding high-quality, accessible care, snagging a spot in that program, and paying for it—parents have told GEEARS that such tasks can pervade their parenting and their careers. Sometimes child care even changes the course of their working lives. In a research study conducted by GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, more than a quarter of Georgia parents of children under five reported that they or someone in their family experienced significant disruption to employment—quitting, not taking, or greatly changing a job—due to challenges with child care.

In the summertime, when K-12 students are on break but their caregivers still have to clock in to work every day, there are even more factors to add to the complicated child care equation. 

“A lot of families don’t have full-time coverage [in the summer],” says Uzma Azhar, Senior Policy Analyst at the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network. “Even camps that do operate might not go for the full summer and parents or caregivers have to find a way to fill those gaps.” 

For parents of young children, simply finding a camp that can serve little ones’ unique needs can be challenging. Camps may operate on reduced schedules or hours that conflict with working parents’ hours. Families might experience transportation difficulties. Or children ages five and under may be too young to attend certain camps. 

But here are some summer child care bright spots 

The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), along with Quality Care for Children, offers a summer camp checklist and a direct line to camp referral specialists to help parents find programming.

For children with certain qualifications, such as living in foster care or being a dual-language learner, DECAL offers an intensive, five-week Summer Transition Program to help enrollees prepare for Pre-K or Kindergarten.  

While not an immediate aid, our friends at Neighborhood Nexus are currently conducting a survey to learn about families’ summer child care needs. Partners (including GEEARS!) can eventually use the data they collect to advocate for policies that help families access quality summer care during every stage of their children’s lives. 

Another encouragement: Kelcie Silvio, Senior Policy Analyst at Voices for Georgia’s Children, notes that if your child is in a year-round care program, there are many real advantages to keeping them enrolled over the summer. 

“First there’s the nutrition component in early care programs where they must have multiple meals, snacks, and beverages every day,” she says. “And in the child care curriculum, children are learning social-emotional skills and fostering fine and gross motor skills, as well as important relationships with adults and peers. If they’re not in consistent care during the summer, that can create a gap.” 

Don’t forget about summer safety and wellness

No matter how your child spends this summer, or what age they are, parents should consider the differences between summer and school-year care and modify their daily routines. 

First, allot extra time each morning to slather your child in sunscreen and insect repellent. Consider packing a sunhat or other protective clothing. 

Next, focus relentlessly on hydration. “It’s really important that children are provided access to outdoor play, both structured and unstructured,” Silvio says. “So, continually having hydration on hand is also important. Especially in a state like Georgia, for little ones, dehydration needs to be on people’s minds.” She adds that water isn’t the only source to look to. Certain fruits and vegetables can be hydrating. Making healthy pops or other fun, frozen hydrators is also an option. 

Speaking of sustenance, families experiencing food insecurity may struggle during the summer when they don’t have access to public school’s free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches. Happy Helpings Georgia, a summer food service program funded by the USDA and administered by DECAL, provides free meals to children 19 and under at sponsor-run meal sites. 

Parents contending with irregular summer schedules and summer educators who might take their students on van rides should look to the Look Again campaign to ensure that no child is ever left in a hot vehicle. Finally, check out this resource for plenty of other summer safety tips, especially the section on water safety.