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Hush, little baby: Daycares begin to offer night care

Beyond the world of privileged 9-to-5ers are parents who pick up their kids from school and then head into work at night.

Many are single parents – and without a friend or benevolent grandparent to mind the kids, they're hooped.

Urgent demand explains why 24-hour child-care centres are opening in hard-up communities such as Elyria, Ohio, The New York Times reports.

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The Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association estimates the number of centres in the state offering nighttime hours has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2003.

Although "night care" is still relatively new, an increasing number of child-care centres throughout the United States provide evening and weekend service, experts say.

"It's the wave of the future," Roger Neugebauer, publisher of Exchange Magazine, a trade journal for the early childhood care field, told The New York Times. "The trend is to move beyond 9 to 5 because, with the changing economy, that's where the need is."

About 40 per cent of the American labour force works evenings, nights, weekends or early morning shifts, according to Harriet B. Presser, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. Many of their jobs are in nursing, retail and food services.

Parents interviewed for the article said they'd prefer child care in their own homes but couldn't afford babysitting.

At ABC & Me, a childcare centre in Elyria, one of Cleveland's rust-belt suburbs, it's not uncommon for a grandmother to drop off a first-grader at 4:30 a.m. on the way to a shift at Burger King. Or for a mother to pick up two-year-old twins at 1:30 a.m. after finishing a shift as a cleaner at a gym.

Although the economy is brighter north of the border, Canadian providers are also reporting a gradual trend toward after-hours care.

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In High River, Alta., Daydreams and Sunbeams Child Care Centre recently opened a late program running from 6 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. to serve parents doing shift work.

Home-based daycares are filling the gap too, offering weekend, nighttime and early morning care for parents in need.

Off-hours care is bound to be unpopular with kids – especially if they don't get to sleep in their own beds. But at least their parents can still provide a roof over their heads.

Would you send your child to an overnight daycare? What if night shifts were the only work you could find?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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