EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

September 18, 2007

When Mom's at work ... Demand for before- and after-school child care outstripping supply

PELHAM - Dozens of local working parents rely on before- and after-school programs to care for their children while they're at work. Most programs are run by organizations, such as the YMCA, right inside the school the children attend.

"It's fabulous," said Pelham parent Barbara O'Connor, who works as an assistant manager and has an 8-year-old in elementary school. "The programs are great."

She knows her son will be safe while she is at work, she said. O'Connor enrolled her son three years ago in the School Age Child Care Program at Pelham Elementary School.

Parents pay $6 a day for the morning session and $9 for the after-school session. Discounts are available for families with several children enrolled.

But everybody has not been so lucky as O'Connor.

Some 50 Pelham families - with a total of 73 children - are now on the waiting list, with little chance of landing a place, according to Kathleen Dinneen, the program director.

"We are still taking names," Dinneen said. "But I'm very up front. The wait list tends to move slowly for the afternoon program."

But now, parents struggling to get to work on time and find a safe place for their youngsters may get a break if the town can reach a deal with the Salem Boys and Girls Club.

Charlene Takesian, chairwoman of the Sherburne Hall Committee which seeks new ways to preserve the historic space inside Town Hall, recently asked selectmen about renting the hall to the Salem Boys and Girls Club to operate a childcare program.

Takesian said she became aware of the childcare problem this summer when she tried to sign her daughter up for a program was told 50 names were on the waiting list ahead of her.

The Salem club already runs before- and after-school programs at its building in Salem and would like to start a similar program in Pelham, Takesian said. The club would pay $30,000 to $40,000 a year to rent Sherburne Hall and would provide all the staff and materials for the program, she said.

Selectmen have agreed to consider the option if issues about logistics and the fire code can be settled. The Sherburne Hall program would be open to all members of the Salem Boys and Girls Club, she said.

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