University launches child-care program for faculty

Oct. 13, 2010, 2:06 a.m.

In 2007, a survey by the Faculty Development & Diversity Office showed that almost a third of Stanford faculty missed five or more days of work annually to take care of an ill child, causing a potential loss in productivity. To alleviate this problem, the University recently launched a program that aims to meet the child-care needs of Stanford faculty, funded through a partnership between the provost and the School of Medicine.

In addition to the productivity issue among general faculty, the medical school was concerned with how the unpredictability of its faculty members’ schedules affected their child-care options and was looking for a solution, said Hannah Valantine, senior associate dean for diversity and leadership in the medical school.

University launches child-care program for faculty
(ANASTASIA YEE/The Stanford Daily)

Now, the new program seeks to resolve both of these issues. Called the Faculty Back-up Care Plan, it will be offered in a three-year pilot phase that began on Oct. 1. During this phase, the service will be limited to Stanford faculty as well as associate, assistant and full-time clinical professors at the School of Medicine.

The provider of this service, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, already manages similar childcare plans at Harvard, Rice and Cornell. Its experience at other universities was a major factor in the University’s decision to select the company, Valantine said.

“I think as we move forward, we’re seeing a shift in this generation of workforce where they are very concerned that they should have work-life balance,” Valantine said. “So the institutions that recognize that need, and provide the infrastructure and resources to support [it]…are going to be the ones that are going to be able to recruit and retain the very best of faculty.”

The University last revised its child-care services in 1999 when it implemented a program that has parents call a referral agency to get a list of centers and in-house providers that could take care of their children that day. Today, it currently extends to all members of the Stanford staff.

“With the referral, the employee makes all the arrangements with the provider and pays the full cost of care,” said Teresa Rasco, director of the Stanford WorkLife Office, in an e-mail to The Daily.

Employees are then eligible to submit for a $160 reimbursement at the end of the year.

With the new pilot plan, however, it takes one phone call for a Stanford faculty member to get help. The agency takes care of the rest — identifying vetted child-care centers within a preexisting network, making the arrangements and confirming the placement with the employee.

The University is extending the service to faculty who need to travel and is adding an elderly-care component.

“The elder care component speaks to the rising number of people responsible for the care of elder loved ones,” Rasco said.

And it all comes at a lower cost to the employee. The service charges a co-pay of $6 an hour for an in-house provider and $15 a day for care at a center.

Still, some groups on campus feel left out. The program in its pilot phase does not apply to many individuals within the Stanford community.

Rie Kijima, a fourth-year graduate student in the School of Education who has a one-year-old daughter, said as a student, the pressure to find consistent daycare can be daunting.

“Sometimes, you have meetings that come up at the last minute, and I think those services would really help graduate students at those times,” Kijima said. “If there’s enough money available, and if there’s a program that could be extended, I think people would welcome it from the graduate student community.”

Kijima pointed to financial obstacles when looking for child care.

“The child-care situation here is very expensive,” Kijima said. “Usually the ones on campus are anywhere between $1,700 to $1,900 a month, so it’s pretty hefty in terms of the cost it requires from our normal stipend to pay off the childcare fee.”

Valantine said the program will be reevaluated at the end of its first year to see if it should be extended to other groups on campus.

“Because we are uncertain how this program will work, whether it will work, how it will be used, we thought we would do a limited pilot in the first year,” Valantine said. “We wanted to first conduct a pilot to get a good sense of how it was working and whether it was being used, and then we’ll be rolling it out to others.”

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