In an effort to provide more resources for parents at Penn, the University is rolling out a brand new evening childcare program at the Penn Children’s Center.
Beginning Oct. 1, parents at Penn — including faculty members, staff members, postdocs and students — will be able to utilize the new program from 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. After their parents pre-register, 25 children will be admitted per night on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Lees, who advocated for the program, said she saw a real need for more child care at Penn.
“My staff and I regularly review the provision of child care on campus,” Lees said. “We are aware that there is a demand for more services than Penn has so far been able to supply.”
Lees added that, by improving childcare services at Penn, the University hopes to attract more female faculty members — in line with the main tenets of the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence.
A large challenge for working mothers is finding affordable child care, so this is one way to provide support for those women who want to pursue a career in academia, Director of Human Resources for Business Services Carolyn McIntyre said.
McIntyre, who oversees the Children’s Center, was excited when she was approached by the Provost’s Office with the new idea. Not only will the program benefit parents at Penn, but it will also allow the center to better connect to campus from its somewhat distant location at 31st and Chestnut streets.
This year’s program will operate as a pilot.
“We want to see how much demand there is, and then we will see if it needs to be expanded,” Lees said.
McIntyre said the Children’s Center already has a well-established and successful day care program, and is confident that the new evening care will supplement the already existing options.
Cecilia Madden, who works in Facilities and Real Estate Services and is a member of Parents at Penn, enrolled her daughter at the Children’s Center in May after spending a year on the waiting list.
“It’s an amazing facility,” Madden said. “All the staff is really wonderful. My daughter loves her class and her classmates. She feels really comfortable there.”
Madden’s experience waiting for a year before enrolling her daughter in the program is not uncommon. Although the Children’s Center currently has spots for 187 children, many parents spend between 12-18 months waiting for something to open up.
“It has a waiting list that’s a year long,” said Nursing graduate student Dacey Stratton, who has a 5-year-old daughter. “You have to sign up as soon you find out you’re pregnant.”
Although the new evening program will provide more options, some have expressed concern over its cost.
While McIntyre maintained that the $25 an hour per child cost is competitive with other childcare programs in the area, others remain wary.
“All the parents that I’ve spoken to about this new program seem very intrigued and very excited, and then they look into the details and see the high cost, and it becomes kind of a moot point,” Madden said.
Penn is offering a subsidized price for the evening pilot that is available to parents who earn below $60,000 a year. For those who make slightly more, however, the cost can be daunting.
“If someone with two children makes $30 an hour and has to pay $50 an hour for day care, she is at a deficit,” Director of New Parents at Penn Sarvelia Peralta-Duran said. “That just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Stratton is equally displeased with the prices.
“I might as well get a nanny,” she said. “It’s not like you’re getting one-on-one day care. It’s not $25 worth of care.”
Peralta-Duran fears that if parents don’t use the program, “it’s going to be deemed unnecessary. The need is there, it just needs to be more affordable.”
McIntyre, who will evaluate the program’s progress on a weekly basis, is confident that it will strike a balance between affordability and quality care.
“It’s cost effective,” she said. “We need to be able pay the staff and keep the lights on.”
Nursing graduate student Christina Jacobson, who is also a mother, believes that the program serves an important need. “It would have been really helpful when I was an undergraduate,” Jacobson said.