Program targets backup child care

In an effort to create more affordable health care options for the Yale community, the University is unveiling a new child-care program, the Provost’s Office announced Wednesday afternoon.

The backup care program, provided by the Lynbrook, N.Y.-based agency Caregivers on Call, will allow Yale faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and students to annually receive up to 40 hours of in-home care for their children at subsidized rates, effective May 15. The contract for a one-year pilot program, which was finalized last week and will likely be renewed, marks the first completed measure of the broader child-care initiative announced last November. Students said they think the program will be helpful, but that it is only a start, a point administrators acknowledged.

“[The new service] provides a meaningful option when a parent’s regular child-care provider is unavailable,” said Robert Schwartz, associate vice president and chief human resources officer. “We have a lot more work to be done, but I think it’s an important step.”

The program will allow for up to 40 hours of in-home care per household, equivalent to five working days, when a parent’s primary child-care provider is unavailable, for instance, in the event of a school closing or the normal provider’s absence. Susan Abramson, Yale’s child-care coordinator, said the program is intended to be used so parents can go to work or study as they normally would when their caregiver is unavailable.

Backup care under the program will cost $7 to $15 per hour based on a sliding scale determined by Yale affiliation and income. Schwartz said the terms of the contract, including the pricing structure, are confidential, and that the University has only an estimate of the eventual costs, since the number of parents who will use the service in a year is not known.

Caregivers on Call was selected as the vendor for its reputation and availability, Schwartz said. Though other companies were interested, he said, only Caregivers on Call had a presence in Connecticut, reducing the implementation time over other caregivers and allowing for reference checks to be more effective.

Fred Shic GRD ’08, who has a one-month-old daughter, said he would not need the service, but thinks it is a positive step, especially for graduate students.

“I’m in a better situation than most since my wife doesn’t work, but I can imagine how [the lack of backup care] is a dealbreaker for some graduate students,” he said. “Some would have to choose between having a family and getting their Ph.D., and they shouldn’t have to.”

Rachel Novick GRD ’08 said the new service should be helpful, but that the University needs to continue this approach to child care.

“If we work on the problem of child care as a whole with the same spirit of subsidies and creating a sliding scale that addresses the needs of low-income people such as graduate students, postdocs and some of the staff, I think the University is going to be really successful at making child care accessible,” she said.

Yale Provost Andrew Hamilton announced a multi-part child-care initiative last November following his office’s analysis of a survey sponsored in October 2004. The initiative includes a new child-care center, a child-care cooperative, and administrative and financial support for an array of child-care improvements.

The survey, conducted by the consulting arm of the child-care company Bright Horizons Family Solutions — founded and chaired by then-Corporation fellow Linda Mason SOM ’80 — was never publicly released in full, but according to a summary prepared by Bright Horizons respondents ranked backup care among their top child-care difficulties.

Nancy Creel-Gross, project director for the University’s childcare initiative, said the backup care program was the first part of the initiative enacted since the survey and members of the advisory committee identified it as an important priority. Schwartz said backup care was also the first program likely to be completed.

“It was important to do, but we knew we could do it quickly,” he said. “A new facility can’t be built overnight. This will be up and running within four to six weeks, while most of the other initiatives will take longer for planning and implementation.”

Schwartz and Creel-Gross said they did not know what initiative Yale would tackle next, but Schwartz said all of the programs listed in Hamilton’s Nov. 10, 2005, letter remain on the list.

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