UC Berkeley Child Care Must Cope With Cuts

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Campus Childcare

Katie Nelson speaks with Vice Provost Shelden Zedeck about the future of campus chidlcare.

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Changes loom on the horizon for UC Berkeley's Early Childhood Development Program as it moves forward to create financially sustainable facilities while compensating for a lack of budgetary support from the state and the campus.

Uncertainty in state funding and reductions in campus support have forced child care programs into a state of flux, putting existing services in danger and pushing administrators to consider a variety of different options to cope with the delay of much-needed financial resources.

The program is taking a "leap of faith" by maintaining routine operations despite the budget impasse in the state legislature, raising questions about the ability to fund operations in the future. Program director Laura Keeley-Saldana said there are many needs the campus administration could address that would help financially support the program's operations.

"We've been serving 90 to 100 parent families in the past, and this year, it is close to 80 families, but we only have funding for 50 (families)," she said. "We are going to have to make cuts unless we get some financial support. We don't have answers right now, but we're going to have to see how this year goes particularly with addressing low-income families that we were once able to fully support but now maybe don't have the funding for."

Rosa Gomez, a teacher at the Clark Kerr Infant Center, said she is worried that because UC Berkeley is such a large campus, the child care program's funding woes will continue because other projects, such as maintenance and research, will be greater priorities than child care.

"We need to offer more spaces, without a doubt," she said. "I have been working here almost a year, and (the center) only has 10 spaces available. So many more people need our services, and taking care of 10 children is nothing."

According to Keeley-Saldana, because child care is not a very lucrative business, there is a "huge" lack of infant and toddler care in the Bay Area.

But she said UC Berkeley is one of the few institutions that offer options such as the infant center, despite its strain on the program's budget.

She said it is "largely recognized" by program leaders that a lack of spaces and long waitlists have caused anxiety for parents. Program officials have been working with Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare Sheldon Zedeck to enhance the campus child care services prior to his retirement at the end of the calendar year.

Despite lagging funds, an emergency back-up care pilot program - for faculty members whose children are ill but still need child care - was launched in 2009 and has been well-received. Though the program is outsourced and does cost a fee, Zedeck and Keeley-Saldana both stated it has shown the most growth and has become a positive resource for parents over the past year.

"It would be great to open it up to everyone," Zedeck said. "It's a cost issue right now, but I am hoping that state and campus funding for child care programs will become a high priority, and we can attempt to give parents and their children as many options as possible."

According to Zedeck, there are "multiple options on the table" that are being considered to tackle the child care program's financial dilemma.

"The campus needs to try and maintain a high-quality program," he said. "We're trying to create as many flexible options as possible, so that faculty and staff who are parents can continue teaching and researching."

Among the program's financially viable options, Zedeck said possible collaborations with other private or public vendors or organizations in the Bay Area could provide more location choices for parents. Program officials are also looking to create a resource referral center on campus that would serve as a hub containing various child care contacts for faculty, staff and student parents.

Program officials have also considered reducing the number of days child care is available from five days a week to three days a week. Keeley-Saldana said she would prefer not to cut back on the number of days child care is provided, but she claimed trying to balance the program's budget is a key issue that needs to be addressed.

Keeley-Saldana added that as alterations are made, there will be extensive communication with families, including a year-long process of public meetings to address how the changes will impact the future of the services.

"We need more help from campus just to operate our current program," she said. "Programmatic changes including fewer (child care) days, possible fee increases, et cetera are just a few of the number of things on the table."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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