The start of another school year is mere weeks away.
For many parents, that will bring a welcome relief and for others, it brings anxiety.
The school day often wraps up long before some mothers and fathers get home from work, leaving an uncomfortable or inconvenient gap in time. For some youngsters, staying with a relative, a trusted neighbor or a friend is an option. But for others, after-school programs are a necessary part of the daily routine to keep a child from going home to an empty house.
ERIN O’NEILL The Marietta Times
Youngsters enrolled in Camp W.I.L.D. at the Marietta Family YMCA prepared to board a bus Thursday at the Marietta Middle School that would take them on a field trip. Many parents will continue to use the YMCA’s after-school programs once classes begin in the coming weeks.
While allowing children to stay home might them to gain a sense of self-assurance and independence, not all youngsters are ready for the responsibility.
"It really comes down to common sense and whether or not the child is mature enough to be left alone," said School Resource Officer A.J. Linscott, with the Marietta Police Department. "If they have to be left alone, parents need to talk to them, give a list of emergency phone numbers, get to know the neighbors ... but after-school programs can provide discipline, structure, educational assistance.
"If you can get them involved in something after school, whether it's these programs, sports, 4-H ... it's much better because when they're alone (when) they have too much time to think."
How to evaluate child care providers and settings
For a child of any age:
Is there a primary caregiver assigned to my child and do all caretakers communicate for consistent care?
Does the provider know typical child development? Will the provider respect my child's individuality?
Will the provider work closely with my family to develop a partnership?
Can I visit my child at any time during the day?
Can I volunteer to help in some way?
What group size is followed; does it meet state and local regulations?
Are our family relationships nurtured and our culture and routines supported?
Is there a daily schedule of activities including playtime and quiet time?
Are toys and equipment safe and cleaned regularly?
Is proper hand-washing taught and used to prevent spread of illness?
Is the program regulated?
Is the program license posted and current?
Is the area appealing with comfortable lighting and an acceptable noise level?
Are toys and materials well organized and accessible to the children?
Can the caregiver and the environment accommodate the special needs of my child?
Is the provider someone who interacts positively with children?
Is the provider someone who offers a variety of age specific activities?
Are there opportunities for children to expand their knowledge by exploring topics of interest?
Is there space for free play, group play, and individual activities?
Is there a flexible schedule allowing children to choose from a variety of experiences?
Is there supervision that allows children to develop independence while staying safe?
Is there a daily schedule posted for parents to see?
Is the discipline policy similar to your own?
What is the staff/child ratio?
Are you welcome to visit at any time?
Are there activities that foster a positive self-image?
COAD: www.coadinc.org, www.ohio4kids.org, 373-6996.
Marietta Family YMCA: www.mariettaymca.org, 373-2250.
Ely Chapman: www.elychapmanedu.org, 376-9533.
Washington County Job and Family Services: www.wcdjfs.org, 373-5513.
Parents who are confused or overwhelmed by the daunting task of finding after-school care can contact the Corporation for Appalachian Development (COAD) for assistance at 373-6996.
"We can provide referrals, checklists and answer any questions that parents might have," said Kim Horn, resource and referral counselor. "The first days of school can be exciting but stressful. The better prepared you are, the less stress for you and your child."
Among the things to look for in a potential care provider are whether or not the program or individual offers homework help and a nutritious snack, according to Horn. It's also important to get references from people who have used the program or services of an individual provider.
When looking into a group program, it is a good idea to look at the staff-to-child ratio and ask about financial aid, scholarships or a sliding scale, as some programs can cost on average $30 a week.
"We are actually seeing a lot of families who don't qualify for help for low-income families but need assistance paying for child care," said Horn. "There are programs that do offer the scholarships or a sliding scale to help."
Registration is underway for the YMCA Kids Company before- and after-school program, which is offered to students at Harmar, Phillips and Washington schools and is also open to students from Putnam, St. Mary School and St. John Central Grade School.
"We ask parents to come to the Y and sign up. A registration fee is due at signing," said Trish Stille, school-age coordinator.
Arts and crafts projects, science experiments and activities that use gross motor skills are just a few of the things offered for kindergartners through fifth-graders. An afternoon snack adhering to USDA guidelines is also offered.
"We also have homework time and that allows more family time and helps the parents when there might be sports or other activities going on in the evening," said Stille.
Care is also provided for snow days, planned days off and waiver days, when school starts two hours late or releases two hours early.
Another option for after-school care is The Ely Chapman Education Center, open to children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Some scholarship opportunities are available and children can participate in theatrical and artistic activities, exercise and get homework help.