The University of Chicago News Office
March 16, 2006 Press Contact: Julia Morse
(773) 702-8359

$1 million childcare initiative at the University of Chicago to increase infant and toddler care

The University of Chicago and its Hospitals have launched a $1 million childcare initiative in Hyde Park and the surrounding communities that will enable licensed childcare providers to create or expand their capacity to care for infants and toddlers.

“This initiative is an important step in addressing the needs of today’s working parents and expanding services in our community,” said University of Chicago President Don Randel.

The grant money will be allocated among established licensed home-based centers and facilities in Hyde Park, Grand Boulevard, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park and Woodlawn next month.

The initiative will allow an estimated 60 additional openings to be made available for children two years of age or younger. Forty of those openings will be available to children of University students, faculty and staff, with 20 openings remaining for children in the community.

“This initiative provides a wonderful opportunity to solve an internal challenge, while at the same time providing resources for the community,” said Hank Webber, Vice President of Community and Government Affairs at the University. “This grant program will facilitate center expansion, create jobs and provide childcare opportunities that might otherwise not exist. It is a great win-win for the University and our neighbors.”

A committee comprised of faculty and staff advised on the initiative’s development, with guidance from the Illinois Facilities Fund, a non-profit corporation that provides real estate financing, development and research for non-profits in Illinois.

“The IFF is pleased to work together with the University of Chicago and its Hospitals on this important initiative,” said Gabriella DiFilippo, Vice President of Real Estate Services at the IFF. “Helping develop a program for the University and Hospitals to partner with local, licensed childcare providers in order to deliver quality care and education for children is an ideal fit with our mission as a non-profit organization.”

Request for Proposals were distributed in February. In May, a selection committee including University faculty and staff, Hospital staff, IFF representatives and early childhood education professionals will announce the first group of providers to receive grant money.

Over the years, faculty and staff have requested childcare assistance of the University and Hospitals, primarily for infants and young toddlers.

A 2002 survey done by the survey lab determined that most employees and students were satisfied with out-of-home care for 3 – 5 year olds, but that they had limited options for the care of infants and young toddlers.

“The search for quality, affordable care for children from birth to three years of age can be a really frustrating experience for parents. Options are limited, especially in the formal childcare market,” said Julia Henly, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, who has participated in the initiative’s development. “I’m really pleased that the University has decided to work with the broader community to increase the supply of infant and toddler care.”

Webber explained that out-of-home care for infants and young toddlers requires additional staffing and a more customized space, making it difficult for many providers to afford the added expense of including those children in their programs.

“The demand is there,” Webber said. “But there are financial and facility constraints for providers that make serving this population a challenge.”

Michael Tatelbame, Special Assistant to the Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer in Human Resources at the Hospitals, said he hopes the initiative will meet and exceed the needs of employees and students.

“We want to help alleviate their stress in any way we can,” Tatelbame said.

Ingrid Gould, Assistant Vice President and Associate Provost in the Office of the President, noted that everyone involved is excited and hopeful.

“This has never been done before. We have asked ourselves, our colleagues and outside experts lots of questions in an effort to design something terrific,” Gould said. “But there’s no perfect roadmap.”

Despite the unknowns that go along with doing something that has never been done before, Gould said she hopes for the kind of success that will lead to growth of the program in years to come.

Randel agreed, noting that the initiative is extremely ambitious.

We are an institution with a history of innovation and we look forward to successful collaboration with childcare providers who share our commitment to children, families and communities,” Randel said.
Last modified at 12:14 PM CST on Wednesday, April 26, 2006.

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