The University Record, March 25, 1998

Child Care Task Force issues recommendations

Editor's Note: The report of the Child Care Task Force has been submitted to the provost and to the vice president for student affairs. Representatives from Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Business and Finance will review the report and consider the recommendations. Comments from members of the University community are welcome, as noted in this article.

By Jane R. Elgass

A U-M task force suggests that the University needs to make changes in its benefits policies related to child care, better explain existing policies and work to make child care more affordable and available for faculty, staff and students to ensure that it remains a "family-friendly" place to work.

Short- and long-term action recommendations and a series of policy recommendations on the issue are contained in "Strategic Plan for Child Care Programs at the University of Michigan," the recently released report of the Child Care Task Force.

The task force was commissioned in September 1996 by the provost and the vice president for student affairs at the request of the Regents. It was asked to assess the demand for child care services, to recommend a Universitywide approach to child care, to prioritize resource allocations, and to address the needs and concerns about affordability and accessibility, especially as they affect students.

Changing demographics, the growing number of women in the workplace and the increasing number of dual-career couples underscore the need in both the corporate and academic world for "'family-friendly' policies and programs to attract and retain highly educated, committed workers-men and women alike," the report states. "In an age where competition for the 'best and the brightest' faculty, staff and students is fierce, family-responsive policies and programs that boost productivity and attract and keep these employees and students are seen as essential to the University's mission."

According to the task force report, faculty, staff and student parents have trouble finding high-quality, reliable child care services despite the fact that the University has six nationally accredited child care centers (five in Ann Arbor, one at Dearborn). The U-M centers are market-competitive, but the potential cost of $8,000 per year for full-time care is "clearly unaffordable for many parents who are members of the University of Michigan community," the report states.

"As infant/toddler care is both more expensive and more unavailable, parents experience additional stress and hardship resolving their infant care dilemmas."

Findings from focus groups conducted by the task force indicate that students, clerical staff and service/maintenance employees face the greatest hardships related to cost and availability. Evening and shift workers also have greater difficulty finding care.

"It is clear that if the University of Michigan is to maintain a strong commitment to diversity, child care needs must also be viewed through a prism of the constituencies most in need of support: non-traditional students, single mother employees, low-income workers," the report states. "In addition, the creation of strong 'family-friendly' policies will serve to benefit all parents who are members of the University of Michigan community. And the ultimate beneficiaries of such an enhanced climate are their young children."

Copies of the full report are available at University Reserves Services, second floor, Shapiro Undergraduate Library; Media Union reference desk; Taubman Medical Library reference desk; and the Office of the Dean of Students, Michigan Union.

Those who wish to comment on the report are asked to do so by April 8. Comments may be sent via e-mail to or by Campus Mail to the Office of the Provost, 3074 Fleming Administration Building 1340.

Short-term recommendations

  • Develop and expand strategies to address affordability for lower-resource parents. This would include increasing the funding of the student scholarship program initiated in 1997 and instituting a similar program for lower-compensated staff.

  • Expand the home-based sick child care program, currently being piloted, to include students.

  • Provide resources to strengthen the financial stability of the U-M child care centers to keep salaries competitive and to allow for a sliding fee scale.

  • Establish a database on the numbers and ages of dependent children of faculty, staff and students.

  • Initiate a program to recognize outstanding providers.

    Long-term recommendations

  • Expand infant/toddler care availability by seeking private funding to add infant care capacity at U-M centers and by recruiting and training more home-based infant/toddler providers in the community.

  • Provide evening care options.

  • Conduct awareness training for supervisors on the benefits of a "family-friendly" work environment.

    Policy recommendations

  • Initiate or expand policies to increase flex-time options. Develop part-time return-to-work policies for those returning from maternity leave. Promote part-time enrollment options for graduate students.

  • Double the number of sick days employees can use for care of a sick child, while keeping the number of sick days constant.

  • Expand the number of sick child care days for parents of chronically ill children.

    The task force's program and policy recommendations are designedto:

  • Ensure high-quality, safe, reliable and affordable child care.

  • Suggest models for child care that can be evaluated and emulated.

  • Facilitate parents' involvement with their children.

  • Build on community resources.

  • Increase affordability by using resources from the University, faculty, staff, students and private sources.

  • Expand policies that help employees balance their personal and professional lives.

    Child Care Task Force members

    Ada Sue Hinshaw (chair), dean, School of Nursing; Leslie A. de Pietro, coordinator, Family Care Resources Program; Muge Gocek, associate professor of sociology; Invelisse Gonzalez, student, Medical School;

    Norman G. Herbert, associate vice president and treasurer; Ejner J. Jensen, professor of English; Katharine H. Jewett, student, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies; Susan W. Kaufmann, associate director, Center for the Education of Women;

    Su-Fen Lin, director of housing, children's services, Family Housing Development Center; Eric D. Luskin, director, family housing; Fiona A. Rose, student, LS&A;

    Richard M. Tolman, associate professor of social work; and Amy M. Young, student, Graduate School.

    Staff support was provided by Jane Benson, graduate student intern, and Lesley Bull, staff assistant.