Dear LAUSD and all public schools,
Please make more room in your after school care program. I can’t be the only parent facing this challenge.
I could not work if I did not have child care and I could not afford child care if I did not work.
Right now I am a single mother working 40 hours a week while paying over $720 a month for the Preschool and childcare that allows me to do that. Everything will change in 16 days and the perfect routine my life is in will implode. See, in two weeks my baby goes to Kindergarten.
On September 16th I will gladly celebrate not driving an extra hour each day to take Darla to Preschool. She and I will make the short walk to Kindergarten at an LAUSD Charter school which sits directly behind our home. She will be able to see her bedroom window from her classroom. I was thrilled to have her at this school because it has a good reputation, is close, and best of all I could stop spending $700 a month on child care. Fenton Primary has an after-school program through 21st Century Kids and I expected to be able to enroll Darla so she would be in safe and licensed care until I could pick her up after work each day.
One morning in May Darla and I walked over to Fenton and enrolled her for Kindergarten. I took utility bills, her immunization record, birth certificate and completed a hefty sheaf of forms and Emergency Slips. The portion asking for Emergency Contacts and “Who can pick up your child” was awkwardly blank. We are a 2 person show over here. It is just me and a five-year-old. She and I have an understanding that if she is not bleeding or dying I won’t be able to leave work to come and get her. Childhood illnesses are a luxury we can’t afford. I pay all of our bills and keep us afloat with one income. There is no support; financial, physical or emotional, from Darla’s Dad or the rest of our family. Three years ago I made the choice between Darla having a 2 parent home or a home where she and I would not be beaten and abused. I chose to give Darla a safe home. Don’t feel bad though, even when Darla’s Dad lived here I worked to pay all the bills and childcare.( I won’t worry about libel and slander for mentioning this because he and his friends had Facebook discussions of when it was okay to hit me – because obviously I deserved it.) Becoming a single mother saved me money and I was able to stop taking her to the Emergency Room after she was left in his care.
On that May Morning when I enrolled Darla in Fenton, I asked about After School Care. This was a topic not covered in the stack of preprinted forms and required enrollment reading. The wonderful office lady explained that after school care is done by a separate entity and would be sending me enrollment forms over the summer, and she asked me to write my contact information in a red binder on the desk.
Last week the classroom assignment letter came, but there was nothing on after school care. I called the school and found out that Darla is number 27 on the Waiting List. Wait, what? Waiting list? Considering that the school has fewer than 600 students, I did not expect there would be a waiting list. Had I known, I would have spent the summer finding a solution. I was told that many children drop out the first week of care and to cross my fingers that there would be a space for her, possibly as soon as the second week of school.
I am now in full blown – write open letters at midnight – panic mode.
I am the only income this family has. I am the only adult. I can’t work if I don’t have child care. Without work I can’t pay for housing or food. Quality, affordable childcare for my school age child is all that is keeping us from being a Homeless Welfare Family. I am in a scramble. Who is around and trustworthy to watch my sweet girl for three hours a day, every day, five days a week? No one. My boss told me she used to pay a high school kid to walk her daughter to the Boys and Girls Club. There is no equivalent within walking distance from the school. Although she can see home from her classroom, she can’t get there alone and certainly can’t stay in the house alone waiting for me. My job is 30 minutes away, I don’t have time to drive out and pick her up from school and drop her off at a Child care center.
What should I do? Do I move her into my bedroom and find a stranger to rent her room to, a stranger who is willing to watch her while I work? Do I take a week of vacation and pray to God that 27 children turn away from the afterschool care? I have already explained to 21st Century Kids that I need them to take my daughter because it is just me and her. I am risking life and limb and starting the Child Support Process, but her Dad already told me that just like he doesn’t pay his income taxes, he has no intention of ever paying child support. Once, when he was using an aluminum water bottle to beat my head, he did mention that if I died he could find many ways to live of off my life insurance, and did I have insurance for the baby? If he paid child support, I might be able to take that week off of work and hope a day care space opens up…but that is not a realistic option.
The irony of all of this: I am a social worker who specialized in helping homeless families in the Welfare Department and now I am a month away from becoming one of them. I am open to any and all suggestions, but also really hoping that @LAUSD will hear my plea and find room for us.