This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Ninah Santos is in a child care crunch.
She’s a single mom who works unpredictable hours at a Pittsburgh hospital and attends nursing school at night.
Her extended family members live in New Jersey, which means they can’t help out when she needs someone to watch her five-year-old daughter. Santos hoped to find a 24-hour child care center near her home in Port Vue when she moved to Allegheny County four years ago.
“I’ve searched high and low for daycares to do that,” she said.
Few do, and so Santos treks to Dottie’s Place in Wilkinsburg, Pa. before heading to her job downtown.
“I drive 30 minutes to get to her specifically because nobody else is open 24 hours,” Santos said.
Dottie’s Place provides “non-traditional” child care, defined as at least three hours of care outside the window of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. New research suggests the service is widely needed, but rarely offered.
Though there’s no definitive tally of regulated, “non-traditional” child care slots in Pennsylvania, the organization Research for Action (RFA) estimates there are fewer than 50,000 available seats.
In that same analysis, RFA found 150,000 families that likely need child care outside traditional hours — an estimate derived from cross-referencing census data.