Child care at the U has been in the news lately and confusion remains about what options are still available for students, faculty and staff. To answer these questions, University of Utah Communications sat down with Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jerry Basford and Center for Child Care and Family Resources Director Shauna Lower to provide clarity.
What are the current child care options available to students and faculty/staff?
Lower: Three entities provide these services on campus; BioKids operated by the College of Science, Virginia Tanner Dance Fine Arts Preschool and three UKids locations—President Circle, East Village and Guardsman Way—run by Student Affairs. Students specifically can find child care options in “off hours” at the UKids locations. Learn more here.
Why did the Child and Family Development Center, run by Family and Consumer Studies, close?
Basford: I know the decision by the leadership team in Family and Consumer Studies was a difficult one. The Child and Family Development Center (CFDC) started out as a training program many years ago and over the years provided wonderful service and a caring environment for its families. But, after a thorough review of its mission, finances, staffing and administrative location in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, there was recognition that it couldn’t continue on in its current form.
Lower: When the CFDC team approached UKids with the idea of expanding into the CFDC classrooms it made sense because UKids already operates a program in that building. Our plan was to offer employment to the CFDC teachers and incorporate their existing children into our programs.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned due to issues with staffing.
Basford: I should note that prior to these departures, UKids had nine full-time and 25 part-time vacancies it was looking to fill. Staffing is a serious problem across campus and has hit us particularly hard in our child care services. This is despite the U paying child care workers above the national and local average (which includes the U’s benefit and retirement package).
The good news is that help is on the way—the U’s administration approved a wage increase that went into effect on Oct. 1 to assist with retention and recruiting efforts. All UKids teachers and assistants will also receive a pay bonus at the end of December 2021.
Qualified individuals interested in applying for an open position are invited to apply here.
How many families have been impacted by the closing?
Lower: At the time of this decision, 43 children were being served by the Child and Family Development Center. Currently, all 11 children are still in need of child care. Those families have received priority placement on the UKids waiting list. The other families we were either able to get into a UKids facility or found alternative solutions.
Is the UKids system financially healthy?
Basford: The UKids child care programs operated by the Center for Child Care and Family Resources (a department in Student Affairs) are financially healthy and remain in high demand with students and employees.
What are the plans for the space previously occupied by the Child and Family Development Center?
Lower: We remain optimistic that UKids will be able to open in this space in the future. As we are able to hire qualified new staff we will continue to expand the number of children we can care for.
What’s next for child care on campus?
Basford: We have asked an outside consulting firm to conduct an assessment of child care and UKids in the next few months. The focus of that work will be on workplace climate and organizational effectiveness. This will include input from staff, students, parents and other administrators.
We recognize that U students have different child care needs than faculty and staff. Students tend to request part-time care for their children, which is not offered widely in the community while faculty and staff need full-time care. Our goal is to provide child care programs and facilities that meet both needs.