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Pickens’ working parents rely mostly on family for emergency childcare

HarmonySchoolsign    Harmony Academy owner Mary Murphy said they were open every day during last week’s winter weather, but that drop-ins dropped off to zero on the snowiest days.

    Snow days are really fun for kids….but maddening for parents who are left finding alternative childcare methods – which sometimes means missing work or toting bored children to the office.

    After the snowdrifts from last week’s winter weather melted we contacted parents, daycares and employers to find out what working moms and dads do when they have to get to the office – and what we found is that most parents lean on family and sometimes friends to get them through.
    “I know for us, we always had Lamar’s mother to help when we had snow days,” said Pickens native Michelle Logan, whose son is now in his early 20s. “So we never had a hardship in that area.”
    Other mothers who have school-age children now said they, too, use family and occasionally friends to help in emergency situations. 
    At the Pickens county government offices, one of the largest employers in the county, clerk Deborah Watson said they don’t have a formal policy regarding children at the workplace, but she said they almost never have people ask or try to bring in their kids.
    “It just doesn’t happen,” Watson said. “Since I’ve worked at the county I can remember a couple of times someone having to bring their kids in at the end of the day for an hour or two, but that’s only happened a very few times. Most people have family close by or neighbors or something else worked out.”
    Watson said in more rural areas like Pickens it seems that parents have a closer network of family and friends than they typically do in larger cities.
    “I don’t know what parents would do if they didn’t have family close by to help out,” Watson said. “That would be really hard.”
    Other employers we contacted also had no formal policy, but said parents almost never bring their children in for an entire day. For the most part, children just come in for an hour or so at a time.
    The nature of some workplaces – such as construction sites - makes them unsafe for kids, while others have a policy against children coming into the office.
    Piedmont Mountainside Hospital’s Risk Management Director Mary Ghorley said the hospital must comply with state and federal regulations, including HIPPA privacy rules, and that because of these regulations children cannot come to work with parents.
     Mary Murphy, owner of Harmony Academy, said her facility opened every day last week – even Wednesday and Thursday when roads were in their worst shape, but that the number of drop-ins plummeted.
    “We usually average about 120 a day,” she said, “but that Tuesday we had about 70, then on Wednesday and Thursday we had none. No one even called.”
    Murphy said on Friday numbers rose back up in the 70s, and that they are just now returning to near normal.
    “It was strange,” she said. “I think most people stayed home, and if they couldn’t the biggest portion of them have family their kids can stay with. Some of them have friends.”
    Over at Country Kids, staff was not able to get to the office that Wednesday or Thursday but owner Rhonda Mullins said that Tuesday and Friday they had several drop-ins, and that the most frustrating part of the equation for those parents is the unbudgeted cost.
    “Most of the drop-ins attended Country Kids in the past or are there for in-service days, so the parents are comfortable with that because the kids get excited to see old friends. I guess the stressful part is whey they know they are going to have to pay for them to come in on those days school is out.”
    Both Country Kids and Harmony Academy charge a $30 a day drop-in fee, which with the number of days missed last week would have added up to $120 in unexpected costs. 
    At some larger companies, usually located in larger cities, there is a move to provide some sort of childcare for parents, the Progress could find no companies in Pickens that currently offers that service. 

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