University offers backup care program -- for children through elderly

Working group continues efforts to improve child care

The implementation of a backup care program is one of several efforts initiated by the University's Child Care Working Group.

Last fall, the group worked with the offices of human resources, community and state affairs, and public affairs to create a set of child care options for the early November school holidays and plans to offer similar information for spring break. The group also helped organize a Summer Camp Expo on Feb. 2 to provide faculty, staff and graduate students with information on opportunities for children of all ages.

The information and registration session for spring break programs is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the lobby of Dillon Gym. In addition to representatives from organizations offering programs during spring break, a representative from Work Options Group will be available to answer questions and register participants for the backup care program. 

The Child Care Working Group is continuing to develop plans for a major expansion of child care on campus. The November 2004 report of the Task Force on Health and Well-Being estimated that 140 to 150 additional child care spaces are needed, particularly for infants and toddlers.

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

Princeton University is launching a new program that will provide faculty, staff and graduate students with a backup when they experience temporary disruptions in their child, adult and elder caregiving arrangements that would otherwise prevent them from fulfilling their work or study obligations.

Starting March 1, the University is contracting with Work Options Group, a Colorado-based firm that manages an exclusive network of licensed in-home and center-based care providers in all 50 states and Canada. Benefits-eligible employees (including postdoctoral fellows) and graduate students will be able to submit a request online or by phone and obtain temporary care for $4 per hour (for up to three dependents) for home care or $2 per hour per child for center-based care. Each employee or graduate student will have 100 hours of care available for each calendar year.

University administrators believe offering the program, called Backup Care Options, puts Princeton in the lead among higher education institutions providing such benefits because of several factors: the inclusion of graduate students as well as faculty and staff; the low co-pay made possible by University underwriting; the wide geographic scope; and the option of home- or center-based care.

"This backup care could be for your elderly parent across the country who needs short-term help, your spouse or partner who's sick at home or your 5-year-old who's out of school because of Presidents Day," said Joan Girgus, professor of psychology and special assistant to the dean of the faculty on matters relating to gender equity. "The advantage of this program is that it's available for loved ones of all ages in all parts of the country at a very low cost to the employee or graduate student."

The new program is the result of efforts by the University's Child Care Working Group, which Girgus chairs. The group was appointed by President Shirley M. Tilghman last summer to plan for a significant expansion and improvement of child care at the University. In addition to charging the group with developing a comprehensive plan, Tilghman encouraged them to identify measures the University could take in the short term to improve child care options.

"This is a short-term solution with long-term benefits," Tilghman said. "It is just one more way that we are able to assist members of the University community in achieving a better work-life balance. I want to thank the working group for proposing this excellent program, and I hope that many members of our community find it helpful in meeting their family responsibilities."

She noted that the implementation of a backup care program was one of the recommendations in a November 2004 report by the University's Task Force on Health and Well-Being. According to a survey commissioned by the task force, 40 percent of graduate students, faculty and staff said they would take advantage of such a program.

Princeton is the first university to partner with Work Options Group, whose clients include several companies on Working Mother's 100 Best list (Accenture, Ernst & Young, KPMG, McGraw-Hill, Prudential and Verizon Wireless). Last year, the company's Backup Care Options program enabled more than 400,000 employees throughout the United States and Canada to get to work when their regular care arrangements broke down.

Backup Care Options is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for infants through the elderly, whether they are healthy or mildly ill. It resolves various gaps in caregiving, including: replacing regular caregivers when they are sick or on vacation; caring for spouses, partners and loved ones who are recovering from medical treatment; and caring for children or adult family members when they are ill, home during a school closure or need help because the employee is traveling for work. Family members need not reside in the home of the employee or graduate student to be eligible.

Members of the University community who submit a request have access to a team of backup care specialists who provide advice, present options and schedule the care. Contracted home care agencies require that all caregivers are FBI background checked, CPR/first aid certified, licensed, insured and have relevant experience in child or adult/elder care. All child care centers in the network must meet or exceed state licensing regulations and guidelines, including background checks, health and safety standards, and staff to child ratios.

Princeton employees and graduate students who think they may use the program can register at no cost by visiting the company's Web site or calling (800) 557-0847. Once registered, participants will receive a welcome packet in the mail that will outline the steps for scheduling care. Those who use the program will be billed for the co-pay by Work Options Group. 

More details about the program are available through the Office of Human Resources by calling the HR Solution Center at (609) 258-3300 or Mary Piteo, the University's work/life coordinator, at (609) 258-8543. Employees of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab may contact their human resources office at (609) 243-2101. Information also is available on the human resources Web site