In helping your employees' plan their summer child care strategies, don't overlook the often underserved teen group-children between the ages of 12 and 15. Unlike elementary school students, these middle-schoolers can stay home alone safely all day, but they can be vulnerable to loneliness, boredom, excessive TV and computer use, and even sex and substance abuse.
To ease employees' worries about their teens, HR professionals should consider partnering with a local camp, school, YMCA or fitness center to provide age-appropriate summer activities. Teen programs often focus on volunteering, career exploration, field trips, personal fitness and extreme sports, such as orienteering, kayaking or rock climbing.
For instance, in 2000, the Northern Illinois Collaborative-a partnership among several corporations (including Abbott Laboratories and Allstate Insurance Co.), local school districts and the Lake County YMCA--created Summer of Service. "We implemented Summer of Service to fill the void of services available for 6th through 9th graders," says Anise Wiley-Little, director of diversity and work/life for Allstate Insurance Co., headquartered in Northbrook, Ill. "These teens and 'tweens are too old for child care and not old enough to work. Often, they are left alone during the summer months when both parents are working. The Summer of Service enhances their appreciation of community service, cultural awareness and career exploration."
Lesli Marasco, director of child care solutions for Abbott Laboratories, explains, "Through the Summer of Service program, kids have the opportunity to volunteer at the American Red Cross, local nursing homes, food pantries, forest preserves and pet shelters; explore careers in various areas, including law enforcement; learn about various hobbies; and take field trips to local museums, water parks and amusement parks." The camp runs from mid-June through mid-August from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with extended hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in case parents are working longer hours.
Mary Gardiner, an Abbott scientist and parent of a Summer of Service participant, appreciates the program. "Programs like Summer of Service have been a huge benefit for parents like me. Having the peace of mind that while I am working, my middle-school child is being well taken care of and is giving back something to the community is important," says Gardiner. "This program has helped my daughter's perspective on opportunities to help other people and be a citizen of the world."
In addition to assisting employees' families, the program enriches the community. "Last year, these kids donated more than 13,000 community service hours through the program. Connecting young teens with positive community experiences helps the teens grow and thrive," says Marasco.