Daycare offerings will be expanded

Provost and finance officials announced a new childcare initiative Thursday that they said will enhance daycare access for all families in the Yale community.

The stated program includes plans for the construction of a new childcare center, expanded backup care for emergency situations and financial relief for daycare costs. Yale staff and graduate students applauded the initiative, but some said they were concerned that in execution it might not supply all resources necessary for working parents.

Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper said the initiative is intended to rectify long-standing problems with the University’s daycare system.

“There’s been a long-term recognition that there were unmet needs in the area of childcare,” he said. “This is a very comprehensive plan that includes a new childcare center and support for existing groups that already are out there.”

The program, announced in an e-mail to all University employees and graduate students, follows a survey of the Yale community conducted last school year. The survey results, which were released yesterday, showed that nearly a third of Yale’s 18,810 employees and graduate students are parents.

Deputy Provost for Biomedical and Health Affairs Stephanie Spangler, who is leading the initiative, said members of the University community require approximately 100 additional daycare slots that will be made possible through services in the new building and expanded support for family-based care. Some of the new slots will be dedicated to back-up care, she said, which parents can use in unexpected situations.

But Chris Mason GRD ’07, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly childcare committee, said the administration has underestimated the community’s needs.

“It’s going to make things better, but it won’t be the comprehensive community-wide solution that we were thinking about,” he said. “I still have some concerns, because they haven’t mentioned any specific parameters or the degree to which they will help the poor constituents on campus.”

Childcare was one of the issues over which the Graduate Employees and Students Organization went on strike last spring, GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said. She said the initiative is a major step forward, specifically citing the provision that increases financial aid for childcare tuition by supporting sliding-scale tuition costs that make daycare cheaper for employees with lower incomes.

“When you’re making $17,000 a year, childcare costs can be astronomical,” Reynolds said. “I hope to see that more women in graduate school can decide to have families.”

She noted that the initiative’s benefit to women could complement a separate diversity initiative, which was announced Monday, to add more women to the University’s faculty.

The program also aims to improve communication about the options available, Pepper said. The survey showed that less than half of graduate students and employees are aware of current childcare providers.

Even among those aware of Yale-affiliated childcare services, Branford dining hall staffer Lucretia Jones said, availability is a chronic problem.

“I heard it was really hard to get into Yale daycare,” said Jones, who has a three-year-old son. “I don’t know any people in Yale’s program.”

The University plans to improve availability at existing facilities by employing the services of consultants and experts at the Yale Child Study Center, Pepper said. The University is also creating a new administrative position and a special committee to oversee the initiative’s progress, he said.

Mason said a childcare committee — independent of the Yale administration and composed of members from three Yale unions, several graduate student groups and the Women Faculty Forum — will hold its first meeting tomorrow. Mason, who is on the committee, said it had originally been formed to address childcare issues that the administration had been ignoring. Now, he said, the tone will be much more optimistic, if cautious.

“I’ve been increasingly frustrated, because nothing’s been getting done on it,” he said. “What they’ve announced is great. The question is how much will what they have in mind match the needs of the University community.”

Last year’s survey showed that respondents’ top childcare concern other than back-up care is the ability to use sick leave to help ill family members. The University enabled this option as of Nov. 1.

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