I was happy to see that the Daily’s recent editorial spotlighted Rackham Graduate School’s important new policy granting six weeks leave to graduate student parents for the birth or adoption of a child (Family matters, 02/21/2008). As the editorial pointed out, the challenges of parenthood extend far beyond the first several weeks of birth or adoption so it is important for student parents to know about additional support services the article didn’t seem to recognize. The new policy is but one of many efforts to support student parents at the University.
The University currently provides care for more than 500 children each day through six on-site child care centers in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn. The centers are open during school semesters, with summer care options, and offer care for children from infancy through five years of age. Additional infant/toddler care was added this fall at the North Ingalls Children’s Center and will be a feature in 2009 at the soon-to-be-built Towsley Center for Children on Forest Avenue and Hill Street.
Second, in order to make campus care centers more affordable to students, the University funds stipends through the Child Care Subsidy (available through financial aid for use at any licensed center or home in Michigan) and through the Tuition Grant program, which can pay up to 40 percent of care costs at our Central Campus centers and Northwood Child Development Center.
Further, in the early 2000’s, the Committee on Student Parent Issues, which included student parents and Graduate Employees’ Organization members, investigated options to address students’ needs for extended hour care and found that the best option was to develop the Campus Child Care Homes Network. This network of 15 licensed child care homes in and around campus can accommodate extended hours, weekends and drop-in care. It provides up to 144 spaces for children, including 96 spaces for infants and toddlers. Each independent caregiver commits to annual training and the pursuit of program accreditation through the National Association of Family Child Care. Hundreds of University families have found this to be an affordable, high-quality and flexible alternative to center-based care.
As with all child care settings – including our own on-site centers – parents need to visit, check references and choose the program that is right for them. Parents can get more information on the Campus Child Care Homes Network and hundreds of other community-based, licensed child care programs by calling our Work/Life Resource Center or accessing our searchable child care database on our website (www.hr.umich.edu/worklife/). To learn more about University on-site child care centers, please visit our Child Care Gateway (www.hr.umich.edu/childcare/).
Jennie McAlpine is the director of the University’s Work/Life Programs.