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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

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Tilghman appoints working group to finalize child care improvements

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman has charged a working group with planning for a significant expansion and improvement of child care at the University.

The Child Care Working Group began meeting earlier this month and is expected to complete its recommendations by the end of December. The group is an outgrowth of two recent reports by presidential task forces that identified improvements in child care among key recommendations.

In fall 2003, the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty in the Natural Sciences and Engineering pointed to affordable and high-quality child care as a "critical element in a larger strategy to recruit more women and help them to succeed." In fall 2004, the Task Force on Health and Well-Being made a number of recommendations to expand and improve child care at Princeton.

"As someone who has had to balance the needs of two young children and the requirements of a demanding scientific career, I know how important child care programs are to both solving logistical problems and fostering peace of mind," said Tilghman, who raised her daughter and son as a single mother while working as a young professor.

The group is chaired by Joan Girgus, professor of psychology and special assistant to the dean of the faculty on matters relating to gender equity.

"It's simply crucial to our ability to recruit and retain not only faculty but administrative and research staff, postdocs and graduate students, and not only women but men as well," said Girgus, who served on the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty in the Natural Sciences and Engineering. "Knowing that their children are well cared for allows people to work to their fullest capacity. It's not just a matter of recruiting people and encouraging them to stay, but also a matter of having them be able to work and flourish here. Knowing that one's children are happily settled is really central to that."

In a survey conducted by that task force, current and former faculty members were asked what changes at Princeton would make a significant impact on the climate for women. Improving child care options was the second most frequent suggestion after hiring more women.

In its report, the task force noted the importance not only of nursery school programs, but of programs for infants and toddlers and for "school's out" and "back-up" care during school vacations, bad weather days or when other child care arrangements fall through.

Princeton currently offers two University-affiliated child care programs, both located in a University-owned building at 171 Broadmead: U-Now, a full-day/full-week program for children from three months through four years; and U-League, a 10-month morning cooperative nursery school for children ages two and a half to four that also offers noncooperative programs through early evening.

As part of its effort, the Task Force on Health and Well-Being engaged Bright Horizons, a highly regarded company in the child care field, to conduct a thorough child care needs assessment among graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty and staff and to provide advice on the development of a comprehensive long-term child care strategy.

In its report, the task force suggested that the University provide better information and coordination and greater flexibility and that it clarify and enhance relationships with the existing U-League and U-Now programs. It also called for the creation of greater child care capacity, especially for infant and toddler care, and the acquisition -- through purchase, renovation or construction -- of new child care facilities.

"While the task force made some initial estimates, more careful analysis needs to be done to determine how many children we should aim to accommodate and at what age levels, how much infant and toddler care and school's out and back-up care we should provide, and what the relationships might be between this additional program and the two existing programs," Tilghman wrote in her charge to the Working Group on Child Care.

The group expects to use the data collected in the Bright Horizons study in formulating its recommendations. It also will consult with representatives from the facilities department who are considering possible locations and designs for buildings to house child care programs.

Tilghman asked the working group to consider whether the University should contract with an outside provider to operate its new child care program, as recommended by the task force. If that is the case, she requested advice on how the University should select such a provider.

She also encouraged the group to explore options that could result in immediate improvements. "While your principal focus should be on the kind of significant expansion," Tilghman wrote, "I hope you also will identify any measures that you believe the University could take in the short term to achieve an immediate expansion in child care capacity or an improvement in existing child care programs, or to meet currently unmet child care needs."

Other members of the working group are: Ann Halliday, associate secretary of the University and special assistant to the president; Ben Hammond, manager for administration in the Office of the Vice President for Administration; Robin Moscato, senior associate director of undergraduate financial aid; Alison Nelson, manager of benefits in the Office of Human Resources; and Terri Harris Reed, associate provost for institutional equity.

Those with suggestions or questions should contact Halliday.

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