March 2, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 11

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    University’s new childcare initiative to assist working parents on campus

    By Julia Morse
    News Office

    The University and its Hospitals have allocated $1 million to launch a new childcare initiative in Hyde Park and its surrounding communities to enable licensed childcare providers to create or expand their capacity to serve infants and toddlers.

    The program is designed to provide employees who are the parents of young children with valuable out-of-home childcare options. By building the capacity of community childcare providers, the University and Hospitals are estimating an additional 40 children will be served.

    Michael Tatelbame, Special Assistant to the Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer in Human Resources at the Hospitals, agrees.

    “I am hoping this meets and exceeds the needs of our employees, providing quality childcare so they don’t have to be concerned about their children and can focus on their jobs,” Tatelbame said. “We want to help alleviate their stress any way we can.”

    Over the years, faculty and staff have requested assistance with childcare. Through research conducted by the survey lab in 2002 the University found most faculty and staff were satisfied with out-of-home childcare options for 3-5 year olds but a real need for assistance was found with parents of infants and toddlers.

    “Because out-of-home care for infants and young toddlers requires extra staffing and specialized space, many childcare providers cannot afford to include infants and toddlers in their programs,” said Michelle Olson, Director of External and State Government Affairs at the University. “The demand is there, but there are financial and facility constraints for providers that make serving this population a challenge. We hope this program will help address some of these challenges for providers who are interested in serving infants and toddlers.”

    Developing an on-campus childcare center was one consideration, but the drawback for the University was similar to those faced by providers—space and costs. Location possibilities near campus were very limited and the only way to make care for infants up to the age of 2 cost effective would be to also provide care for 3 to 5 year olds, putting the University and Hospitals in competition with providers who had served that population successfully for many years.

    The Illinois Facilities Fund, a nonprofit expert in the childcare arena, is consulting on this initiative and managing the grant application process. Requests for Proposals forms were distributed last month and a decision on the first set of grant recipients is expected in April. Grant applicants are required to provide proof of accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children or proof they meet the association’s standards.

    The application also requires the submission of three years of audits or financial statements, a business plan, budget information, details of the program or curriculum, building information and a staffing model.

    The decision to distribute grant money to selected licensed childcare facilities in the area rather than create a new facility provided two important benefits: parents would have more childcare choices, and there would be no additional competition for established providers in the community, Olson explained.

    A selection committee composed of University faculty and staff, Hospital staff, Illinois Facilities Fund representatives and early childhood education professionals will evaluate the proposals to select which providers will receive grant money.

    Not-for profit and for-profit and both facility and home based childcare providers in Hyde Park, Grand Boulevard, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park and Woodlawn are eligible to apply for capital projects and/or program enhancement support.

    Ingrid Gould, Assistant Vice-President and Associate Provost in the Office of the President, noted that everyone involved is excited and hopeful. “This has never been done before. We have asked ourselves, our colleagues and outside experts lots of questions in an effort to design something terrific,” Gould said. “But there’s no perfect road map. There just can’t be right now.”

    Despite the unknowns, Gould said she hopes for the kind of success that will lead to growth of the program in the years to come. “This is an ambitious proposal,” she said. “We are an institution with a history of innovation.”

    Tatelbame noted the childcare initiative is a perfect example of the University Hospitals’ history of being at the forefront.

    “This is a bit nontraditional for the University Hospitals, but we want this program in place to let our employees know that parenting their children is important,” he said. “There are great challenges of being a working parent, so this kind of quality childcare is crucial for our employees.”