Chicago dad and mom scramble to seek out reasonably priced summer time youngster care


Each summer time, Nathan La Porte and his spouse face a parenting problem: Discovering youngster care for his or her two school-age youngsters.

This yr, their 4-year-old son may proceed attending non-public preschool like he does all yr. However with their 6-year-old daughter ending the varsity yr at their native public faculty, they needed to discover summer time youngster care that labored with the dad and mom’ full-time work schedules. 

Like many Chicago dad and mom, La Porte repeatedly refreshed the Chicago Park District registration web page at 9 a.m. in early Might to enroll his daughter in camp. 

“It’s equivalent to purchasing very talked-about live performance tickets,” he mentioned. 

La Porte mentioned they lined up six weeks of camp by the Park District for about $400 whole. Every week of personal camp prices $350-500. La Porte mentioned additionally they enrolled her in two separate one-week non-public camps for about $500 every. 

Placing collectively a summer time youngster care plan at all times has been difficult for folks, however is much more tough because the COVID pandemic and the ensuing facility closures, youngster care staffing shortages, altering work conditions, and financial hardship. 

Chalkbeat Chicago surveyed readers to be taught extra in regards to the challenges.

“Price was our primary issue,” mentioned Cortney Ritsema. She and her husband enrolled their three youngsters in Chicago Park District camps after listening to about them from fellow dad and mom. Ritsema lives in Rogers Park and mentioned non-public camps for 3 youngsters would value greater than their hire.  

“We have now needed to change our work schedules to accommodate the camp schedule, however for us having childcare we may afford was price these lodging,” Ritsema wrote in her solutions to the Chalkbeat survey.

Park District camps are wanted by dad and mom as a result of they run for six weeks and price lower than most different camps within the metropolis. A complete of 14,582 youngsters are registered throughout 189 Park District day camps this summer time. 

Megan Lawless navigated summer time youngster take care of the primary time for her older youngster, who’s 6 years outdated. She handed on making an attempt to safe a spot at a Park District camp. 

“I don’t benefit from it as a result of it’s ‘The Starvation Video games’ to get a spot and it doesn’t really feel very equitable, the best way that they do it,” Lawless mentioned.

She worries about taking spots wanted by households who’ve much less assets and restricted choices through the summer time. 

As an alternative, Lawless cobbled collectively a schedule of personal camps and time at her mom’s home.

Park District day camps are restricted by facility measurement and staffing, which they struggled with this yr, in line with Michele Lemons, director of communications. The district remains to be ramping as much as pre-pandemic numbers.

Many dad and mom mentioned that availability has lengthy been a difficulty within the group’s programming.

Camp enrollment is on a first-come, first-served foundation, however the district determines the variety of areas for on-line registration based mostly on group wants and doesn’t flip anybody away due to potential to pay, Lemons wrote in an e-mail.

On the YMCA, about 5,000 youngsters had been registered for summer time camps this yr, in line with Katy Broom, director of public relations and communications for YMCA Metropolitan Chicago. Though there have been over 22,000 registrations, youngsters are sometimes signed up for a number of weeks of camps, in line with Broom.

Discovering youngster care is particularly robust for single dad and mom, like Dawna Harrison, who lives along with her 4- and 5-year-old sons in College Village. This was additionally the primary time Harrision needed to discover summer time care, and it felt isolating to determine it out on her personal, she mentioned.

Finally, she was in a position to do a mixture of YMCA camp and personal and public summer time faculties. However the restricted hours of those applications are a problem, she mentioned.

Isbeth White, a single guardian with two school-age youngsters in Ravenswood, couldn’t afford youngster care this summer time, she mentioned on the Chalkbeat survey. As an alternative, her youngsters reside with their father and attending a camp within the suburbs, the place there was extra availability. 

When Edgewater guardian Silas Dameron misplaced his job in Might, he and his spouse had been left scrambling as to how they might afford youngster care this summer time for his or her 4- and 10-year-olds. 

“We had been a alternative between me staying residence as free youngster care and me going again to work understanding that full-time youngster care was more likely to eat up some or all of what I introduced in,” Dameron mentioned. 

After contemplating the price of care, anticipated earnings, psychological well being, and insurance coverage, Dameron and his spouse determined he would keep residence to look at their daughters. Reasonably priced youngster care has at all times been a problem for his household, particularly for his or her older daughter, who’s on the autism spectrum, however Dameron feels lucky they can make this summer time work, he mentioned.

Keana Russell, a CPS guardian and bus aide in Austin, additionally had problem discovering reasonably priced youngster take care of her 14-year-old daughter who has a studying and life abilities incapacity. Though she was capable of finding care, getting her there round work hours is tough and the power is scuffling with staffing shortages, Russell wrote within the Chalkbeat survey.

Maddy Brigell signed up her two youngsters for summer time camp on the YMCA in Irving Park, which she mentioned is reasonably priced and handy for her household. Her youngsters already attend an after-school program run by the identical employees through the faculty yr. When camp is closed, she depends on her dad and mom or a excessive school-aged neighbor for youngster care. 

Many dad and mom who responded to the Chalkbeat survey instructed options to the problems in summer time youngster care, together with extra spots in Park District applications, a complete listing or database of accessible applications, and holding registrations earlier within the spring.   

Naadia Owens, a guardian of two youngsters residing in Woodlawn, mentioned that guardian communities play a essential function to find care, particularly as a result of there isn’t any straightforward approach to discover out what is on the market within the metropolis. 

By these teams, Owens has discovered about totally different camps, their value, and what they supply for kids. Many dad and mom additionally coordinate carpooling, which could be particularly useful for working dad and mom.

Eileen Pomeroy is a reporting intern for Chalkbeat Chicago. Contact Eileen at

Correction: July 25, 2022: A earlier model of this story misspelled Nathan La Porte’s final title with no house.


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