Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

School Holidays Give Day-Care Programs a Boost

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

School Holidays Give Day-Care Programs a Boost

Article excerpt

Eric Berger, 7, spends the day after Thanksgiving swimming and roller skating while his parents work.

A second-grader at Old Bonhomme School in Olivette, he is one of the best customers at Vacation Days, activity programs sponsored by the Jewish Community Centers Association when school's out.

"He goes to almost all of them," says his mother, Susie Berger, who manages catering operations at Whittemore House at Washington University. Carlos Berger, her husband, also works in the food industry.

"I just hope they never quit, because I would be up the creek," says Susie Berger.

The Berger family faces a child-care predicament shared by millions of parents in the workplace, including the seven out of 10 working mothers in this area with children under 12. What do they do when the bell rings for vacation, holidays, conferences and conventions, but mom and dad must work?

"People are making an attempt to do something, but it's still a big hole in child care," says Ann Watts, director of resource and referral services at Child Day Care Association. "Parents patch together child care."

From its campus near Creve Coeur, the JCCA runs 39 vacation days this school year from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. It also offers half-day programs when Pattonville and Parkway schools close at noon for teacher preparation time.

A dozen branches of the YMCA of Greater St. Louis run holiday camps throughout the school year, including the Emerson Family YMCA, which operates today. Private day-care centers such as Professor Bear's Learning Center, 2500 Hampton Avenue, also open their doors on days like today.

Other parents ask relatives and friends to watch children, or they hire baby sitters, often high school students. A few take children to work, and many simply take the day off. Parents who wait to the last minute can find few options. Downtown Children's Center, the YMCA and JCCA report waiting lists on Martin Luther King's birthday and President's Day.

"Parents panic," says Lisa Cohen, JCCA youth program coordinator. "They come at the last minute, and I don't have space."

Jeana Dewaele of Highland, Ill., plans to take her 9-year-old daughter, Jamie, and 5-year-old son, Nicholas, to the Downtown Children's Center when St. …

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