The YMCA's Kelly Smith says staff shortages have forced the organization to make the cuts. ((CBC))

Calgary parents are struggling to find new child-care options after the YMCA announced it will be cutting half of its before-school care programs in the fall.

The YMCA program currently provides before-school and professional development day care to more than 200 children in a dozen schools in the city, but come autumn, six of those programs will be swapped for afternoon-only care.

The YMCA says the cuts boil down to staffing problems.

"We are stretched considerably with staffing," explained Kelly Smith, the YMCA's senior vice-president of finance and operations. So stretched, in fact, that Smith along with other vice-presidents and managers have had to provide after-school care themselves.

"One of the difficulties we have is the split shift, and that it is extremely hard to recruit for those types of positions when there's other opportunities in Calgary," he said.

If the fall pilot programs are successful, Smith said, the remaining six schools will also make the switch.

"You know, this isn't something we like doing," he said. "This is something we feel we need to do to continue providing care in the community. … We cannot cover those days.

 "We feel this new model will still keep us in the community providing safe places for kids to go and quality programs."

Parents debate changing hours

Smith said the decision to stop the program is final, so parents in the city are frantically seeking alternatives.

Mary-Lynne Stepan said she and her husband have discussed changing their work schedules, sending their daughter to private school or searching the city for a day home that is either on a bus route or could take her to school.

"I've seen other mothers who were in tears about this," she said, explaining she feels "totally left out on a limb."

Sarah Daniels said she also has no idea what to do about her six-year-old daughter's care in the fall because she depends on the YMCA to watch her before school and on days when school is closed.

"You know, I work from 8 to 5, Monday to Friday, and I don't really have a choice in that," she said. "I can't play along with my hours or anything. You know, there's really no other option."

Both women say they hope someone will come through with a new plan to provide the service before school opens in the fall.