Overnight childcare fills void in 24/7 economy

Kids who go to Yessika Magdaleno’s childcare in Garden Grove know to bring their toothbrushes and a blankets when they get dropped off by their working parents.

They are not coming for daycare. They are spending the night.

Magdaleno, a state-licensed family childcare provider of 16 years, is one of a small number of licensed providers who care for parents with irregular work hours — evening, overnight and early morning shifts.

It was more than a decade ago when Magdaleno started providing night services for children whose parents work in hotels, restaurants and other industries that power through when others are off.

On top of helping out the night owls, Magdaleno assists the early risers. She’s accepted drop-offs as early as 4 a.m. from parents who need to begin picking vegetables at sunrise.

She’s one of the few family childcare providers in Orange County who have offered to take children during non-traditional hours, meaning beyond the approximate 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. time that many other providers and daycare centers typically use.

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In 2005, Magdaleno got her first call asking for night care. It was a single mother who needed a 3 a.m. pick up for her children after finishing her factory shift in Anaheim.

“If they are reaching out to us, it’s because there’s no one to help them,” Magdaleno said.

The Garden Grove childcare provider is no stranger to seeing the tears spout from both the kids and parents who are dropping off for the first time, but she knows that the children being handed off to her come from parents working for the paychecks their families need to live in Orange County, one of the state’s most expensive housing markets.

“It means that their family can have a better way of life,” Magdaleno said. “You sacrifice time with your kids, but you earn a little bit of money to buy them clothes and food.”

As president of the Orange County Child Care Assn., Lee Allton is responsible for receiving the “overflow” calls from families who can’t find care that fit their unpredictable working hours or price range.

“There’s just not enough resources out there to help people who cannot afford [care] and do not have the family support, and that’s usually in the lower socioeconomic areas, where they’re doing shift work, factory work, Starbucks, McDonalds, those places,” Allton said.

According to data published by the Cal State Fullerton Center for Demographic Research, more than 1.6 million people were employed in Orange County in November 2016. About 50% of those people worked in professional, business, educational, health and hospitality and other services. Over 2,000 people worked in agriculture and another 28,000 in transportation, warehousing and utilities.

Allton noticed the calls asking for night care began to come in around 15 or 20 years ago, and that she’s only known a few providers who were able to offer the later hours.

Even after Allton makes the referrals for those who call her for night care, she’s seen sources come up short.

“Sometimes, each avenue is a dead end and you’d have the parents in tears,” Allton said, noting that the California Department of Education or Children’s Home Society are among the last-resort options. “You have to care enough to make sure their hope isn’t stripped. Their problems begin the moment you take their hope away.”

Seal Beach family child care provider Mary Testerman offered as many as three nights a week of night care in the past but now only opens during the evening hours for parents’ date nights and other circumstances.

The day shift is every care provider’s “bread and butter,” since more parents work during daylight hours, she said.

“Doing the nights also is just too many hours,” Testerman said, adding that she believes it’s likely the reason why other providers don’t extend their services beyond the daytime.

Her current hours are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Night hours are often sporadic. Testerman recalls once having her first child of the day dropped off at 6 a.m., then having her last child of that shift picked up at 2 a.m.

Before moving to Los Angeles two months ago, former Seal Beach resident Shari Shanker took her toddler son to Testerman because she and her husband could not afford a nanny.

Shanker works in the music business, and her husband was doing his residency work to become a physician. They both work nights.

“We never heard of at-home daycare, but I’m so glad we did because she’s like Mother Teresa,” Shanker said of Testerman. “I feel better being a working mom so I can provide for my family. It means the world to know that my kid is safe, happy and well-taken care of.”

Sandra Turner, a care provider also in Seal Beach, agrees that extending hours into the evening turns off many providers because the days last so long.

Turner has offered overnight services for 12 years, watching over the children of cops, nurses and social workers.

She’s currently at full capacity for her license, and no families have asked for night hours, but Turner still gets calls from families needing evenings.

“You hear in their voice how desperate they are,” Turner said, adding that she can only refer them to others. “There’s nowhere else for them to go.”

She remembers caring for the child of a single mother who worked nights as a cashier at the Target in Seal Beach. The mother earned a promotion to management after committing to those late shifts, giving her the ability to move herself and her daughter out of a shelter and into an apartment.

“When you see something like that, you know you’re making a difference,” Turner said. “It’s knowing that you’re giving someone a chance to better themselves and giving them that peace of mind that while they’re working their kids will be well fed and taken care of.”

But it’s tough for her to answer the questions her kids ask about why their parents have to work long hours and why they sometimes have to pick them up late.

So Turner soothes them with the words: “Mommies and Daddies always come back.”

Alexandra.Chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10

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