This last year has been hard on many families as schools and childcare services shut down due to the pandemic. These services are essential for working families and for the social health and development of our youth. With the community opening back up, the South Sound YMCA is excited to announce that they will be resuming Y Care before and after school childcare services in the fall.

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The Y Care program provides all sorts of fun and educational activities for children. From technology to art, your child will have many opportunities to learn something new and have fun along the way. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

The YMCA has been an essential part of South Sound communities for almost 130 years, and has offered numerous services, including their Y Care childcare program. This program is offered throughout Thurston County and will be reopened at 30 different schools to accommodate as many families as possible. By integrating childcare into the schools, the entire process becomes much easier and less intimidating. “It is super convenient for parents and great for kids because it is a place that is familiar to them with kids they know,” Executive Director of Advancement Sarah Clinton explains. “Additionally, you don’t need to be a member of the YMCA to use this service, so it is open and available to everyone.”

Y Care is offered both before and after school to help working parents get the care they need for their child. Morning care can help ease the stress of getting to work on time because children can be dropped off earlier. The YMCA staff provide breakfast and make sure kids get to class on time. In the afternoons, the YMCA staff keep kids engaged through fun and educational activities, including STEM, sports, reading and homework help. “We really try to balance our programs with formal academic things like homework and recreational activities,” Clinton says. “The kids have been in school all day and need to be able to have fun too.”

As students come out of lockdowns and remote learning, it is essential to help them reconnect with their peers as well as adult mentors outside of their homes. Social health is an integral part of growth in our youth, and the YMCA is committed to ensuring opportunities for positive interactions and experiences are provided through their programs. “Historically, a strong focus for our youth programs has been to help children socially and emotionally connect with one another,” Clinton explains. “We have put some real thoughtfulness and intention into how we support our kids as they reintegrate with their peers.” Having a safe and familiar place to do this will make returning to school and engaging with others that much more comfortable for kids in our community.

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The South Sound YMCA is passionate about providing high quality childcare to everyone. Their goal is to help families return to work and support students socially and emotionally as they reintegrate into school. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

One of the pitfalls of most childcare programs is that they can be quite costly. “The reality is that childcare is expensive, but our goal is to make sure everyone has access to high quality childcare,” says Clinton. “We don’t turn anyone away because of an inability to pay.” The YMCA offers financial assistance through both state subsidy programs and internal financial aid. “We encourage everyone to apply for state subsidy,” Clinton shares. “If they qualify, they can pay as little as $10 or $15 a month for childcare.” The YMCA does not limit the number of kids who are on state subsidy programs, so anyone that qualifies for financial assistance through the state is welcome to bring their child to Y Care.

For those that cannot qualify for state subsidy, the YMCA provides internal financial aid for childcare. “We offer about a 45% fee reduction to those that qualify,” Clinton explains. Two staff members at their South Sound location are dedicated to supporting families through the registration process. “The staff make it simple and easy to access financial assistance because they help parents every step of the way,” says Clinton. It can sometimes feel overwhelming or uncomfortable to ask for help, but the YMCA wants to ensure every family and every child has access to the resources they need. “Everyone is treated the same and has the same access to services,” Clinton shares. Contact the YMCA today to learn more about your options.

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The after school care provides delicious and nutritious snacks to all of the children. These kids made some fun and yummy fruit skewers as part of their afternoon snack. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

As they prepare for reopening, they recognize the need to bring on more staff to support Y Care. Through a combined effort of volunteers and employees, the YMCA is working to ensure they will have the staff to support the needs of this community as parents return to work in-person. If you are interested in joining their team and helping support our youth, check out current job and volunteer opportunities and apply online.

Childcare is an essential service for our community members, and the YMCA is both excited and proud to be able to offer their Y Care program once again. They have options to meet every family’s need, from before- and after-school care, to drop-ins for as-needed care. Plus, with 30 available childcare sites at local schools, you will no longer have to worry about transportation to and from care. If you are looking for a convenient, engaging, and affordable place for your child to learn and grow, the South Sound YMCA is the perfect choice. Register online to save your child’s spot today!

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