Finding Childcare for Children with Disabilities

Very few afterschool programs or daycares will accept children with autism.

This issue is particularly challenging in Wake County right now, as the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) recently began enforcing a policy (Board Policy # 7125) on the books: refusing to transport children beyond their districted school’s boundaries to afterschool centers.  Until recently, children could be bused to their afterschool program even if it was outside the district of their school.  Due to budgetary issues (now and projected), WCPSS notified parents that they must find afterschool care within the geographic node of their school (either “the base attendance or application draw are of the student’s school, or the schools serving the area in which the student resides”).
For parents of typical children, that would pose an inconvenience.  For parents of children with disabilities like autism, that is a catastrophic change, potentially affecting a parent’s ability to keep their job.  Very few afterschool programs or daycares will accept children with autism.  Even if accepted initially, many children with autism are “asked” to leave.  Click here and here for resources on good afterschool program qualities as well as where to find a list of programs.
Is this legal?  Consider this information, from Disability Scoop:  “Federal law requires day care centers to provide reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities, but parents and advocates say finding care can be near impossible in some parts of the country.”  According to a Georgia online newspaper (Macon.com), some daycare or afterschool programs have deliberately lied to parents, fearing the additional liability, training, and cost of staffing if children with disabilities are accepted.

Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) both require child care centers to make “reasonable accommodations”, and they cannot refuse to accept a child just because of a disability.  Still, a parent’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit, which won’t help with afterschool care in the short term and is often prohibitively expensive.
The Autism Society of NC has received numerous calls about this issue.  Parents should contact the Transportation Department to request an exception if they are unable to locate afterschool care within the approved geographic regions.  School systems need to understand that parents often struggle to find daycare or afterschool care for their exceptional children!

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4 Responses

  1. I also wonder about the availability of afterschool programs for children with disabilities who have aged out of daycare but whose developmental age does not allow them to be at home without assistance.

    • I agree, that is absolutely an issue. It’s awkward for a middle school-aged child to be in afterschool care with elementary students, as my son was, and not all programs will even allow that. There aren’t too many options for high school-aged children who can’t be alone at home, either. It gets expensive for parents to pay for sitters, and sometimes there aren’t any good choices.

  2. This is such an issue for us as well. Track-out is even worse. We’ve had to modify work schedules and drive nearly an hour (one way) to find care. Although there are programs for typical kids the ratios are so large even when they said they could accomodate a child with special needs our child was bullied, harrassed and physically hurt. I hope to one day find a place that fits our child, isn’t cost prohibitive, and with in a reasonable driving distance of downtown raleigh.

    • As a parent of a child with autism, I completely understand. Parent Advocates at the Autism Society of NC are always willing to talk to providers; our Training Department also provides clinical trainings for organizations. We need to improve the availability of care for children with disabilities!

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