November 14, 2006, Volume 53, No. 12
Child Care Concerns
I am e-mailing in response to the recent article in the Penn Almanac regarding the Child Care Survey Report.
As I made clear in my response to that survey, I felt as if it had been designed with a predetermined outcome (i.e., to increase funding to the Penn Children’s Center). I am not sure that this outcome is the best use of University resources in this fundamentally important area of policy. The Penn Children’s Center may be the right fit for some families but I am requesting that the University seriously consider whether a school-run monopoly on subsidized child care is an appropriate or efficient use of scarce resources. To help in making this judgment, I would encourage the University to gather data on the following questions:
1) How many children of University employees are served by each of the nearby child care centers (i.e., Caring Center, Parent Infant Center, St. Mary’s, Infant Friendship Center, Families First)?
2) What is the size of the waiting list at those centers in relation to the Penn Children’s Center?
3) Where do University staff receiving childcare subsidies enroll their children? The Penn Children’s Center doesn’t seem to serve this important community as well as other nearby centers.
4) Could more University employees’ children be aided with no increase in budget if subsidies were extended to expand other nearby centers instead of the Penn Children’s Center? For example, why not provide Parent Infant Center a no-cost lease to University owned but unused space in the former University City New School?
And to consider the following two policy options:
• Extending the University’s discount to its employees whose children are enrolled in other centers that meet the same quality standards (i.e., accreditation, 4 stars)
• Instead of expanding the University’s own Center, follow the Harvard model and provide free real estate to community centers thereby serving more children with a more diverse set of childcare offerings at a reduced cost.
—Witold (Vit) Jerzy Henisz, Associate Professor of Management, Wharton
Dr. Henisz’s thoughtful letter identifies several important aspects related to the overall question of the adequacy of child care spaces in University City and the Philadelphia area. The child care survey undertaken last spring was the first time Penn had ever surveyed its employee population (both staff and faculty) on this subject. The survey was designed to inform us of the needs, priorities and preferences of our employees. The survey results confirmed our view that there is substantial unmet need for child care spaces. The first steps taken are those we could take quickly. As Penn owns the Penn Children’s Center, we were able to move quickly to add more spaces and to extend the hours of operation.
Penn has and will continue to partner with community and neighborhood groups who provide child care services. For example, Penn has a long standing relationship with The Caring Center at 31st and Spring Garden, facilitated their prior expansion, and most recently helped to reduce their operating costs. Similarly, Penn has had a long term relationship with the Parent Infant Center.
We are now exploring opportunities to pursue beneficial partnerships with other child care providers to assist Penn employees in finding effective solutions to their diverse needs. We greatly appreciate the feedback from members of the Penn community as we consider what additional steps we can take.
—Janice Bellace, Deputy Provost
—Jack Heuer, Vice President, Human Resources
Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday’s issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. —Eds.