UC Berkeley officials announced Wednesday that faculty members will be eligible for a new backup care program for children and adults beginning this summer, following extensive negotiations between campus officials and an international child care service.
Beginning July 1, faculty members will be eligible to use 40 total hours of care — called the Back-Up Care Advantage Program — for the year through a campus partnership with Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a center that provides backup care for both children and adults or elders in times when faculty need to work and regular child, adult or elder care is unavailable. The program, which partners with local child care and adult centers, also offers the option of having Bright Horizons employees come directly to the home.
A pilot program with Bright Horizons was originally launched in March 2009 for all assistant professors, and according to Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Equity Angelica Stacy, due to “overwhelming positive feedback,” former Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare Sheldon Zedeck negotiated with Bright Horizons to expand the program’s contract while Chancellor Robert Birgeneau helped to provide the funding to continue the program, which will now run through June 30, 2021.
“You can imagine when both parents are working, things can be quite stressful,” Stacy said. “Parents are trying to do it all, and while for right now (the program) is just for faculty, we do feel that we’re committed to possibly offering something like this for our staff in the future.”
Stacy added that the program is unique in the sense that it allows faculty to simply sign up for the program without paying a registration fee. Instead, faculty will only have to pay for the requested care by the hour.
“Bright Horizons originally made an estimate of how many people could use the service, and we far exceeded it,” she said. “It’s so popular, and many more people use it than predicted. The need is there.”
Currently, the program is only offered to faculty members because of issues surrounding how much the campus can pay to keep the program in operation. When the California Legislature made massive state cuts to child care services in October for the 2010-11 fiscal year, the campus had to implement cuts to its programs to be able to support itself financially while still being able to make the necessary utilities payments the campus requires for utilization of its seven child care centers.
While Stacy said there is a possibility of offering backup care services to staff in the future and that the UC Office of the President is also looking to possibly incorporate the program systemwide, ultimately everything comes down to money and the ability to offer the program to more people while maintaining contractual benefits with Bright Horizons.
The campus has decided to keep the program available to faculty only, due to concern that it would not be able to maintain the same price rates if it expanded availability to staff members.
“I spoke with (Angelica Stacy) and we think it’s best to keep the contract amount confidential,” said Wendy Nishikawa, the campus’s work/life program manager, in an email. “The reason for this being we got an incredibly good deal for the backup care program with our vendor and we are concerned that if this amount was made public, it might impact them negatively in their negotiations with other companies or universities.”
Still, those who have the program available to them said it has offered more flexibility in scheduling and traveling and that payment for care, which must be a minimum of four hours per program, is extremely inexpensive.
Chelsea Specht, an assistant professor of plant and microbial biology, has been using the program since the pilot program launched two years ago to help her coordinate work conflicts when her daughter needs care, especially during Specht’s travels.
She said that while the total cost to use the program is between $15 and $20 each time, the campus’s assistance in paying for the service allows her to pay only $4 — should a company employee to come to her home to watch her 2-year-old daughter — and only $2 should she take her daughter to a child care center.
“(The program) is probably the easiest things I have ever had to deal with in my life,” she said. “I can use this in situations when traveling or other emergencies. Even if my daughter is sick, they can come to take care of her while I am at work if need be.”
Katie Nelson is an assistant news editor.