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Every weekend is Family Weekend for student parents


Photo
MATT ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Elementary education sophomore Elizabeth Gonzales holds her son Daniel Wednesday afternoon at Hand In Hand preschool, where he in enrolled.
By Kris Cabulong
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 22, 2004
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UA Babycats and Hand in Hand preschool have begun collaborating in an effort to assist the 8,000 children of UA-affiliated parents who are in need of adequate childcare, said Tiffany Burns, 32, a political science freshman, mother and undergraduate vice president of UA Babycats.

With the UA being the only Pacific 10 Conference school without university-provided daycare, more than half of the children cared for at Hand in Hand belong to UA families, Burns said.

"About 60 percent to 70 percent (of our children's parents) are UA students, staff, support staff or professors," said Cari Christoff, Hand in Hand center director.

There are a lot of parents who are really thankful for the independent preschool, which has been in operation under different names since 1947, said Laureen Johnson, Hand in Hand assistant director.

"(Parents) can just pop over and see their children when they want to, and it's a real peace of mind for them," Johnson said.

Burns' daughter, Cassidy Burns, 5, is enrolled at the preschool.

"I feel very lucky to have my daughter at Hand in Hand," Tiffany Burns said. "She's three blocks from my office, and there's been times when I had to be there on a moment's notice and I can do it."

"The staff takes very good care of my daughter. They teach her academics and values, which is very important to me and my husband," Burns said.

However, space in the preschool is limited to only 125 students, said Christoff. For other families, the UA offers a $500 stipend per semester, but Burns and other parents are saying this amount is grievously insufficient.

"That doesn't cover a month of my daughter's childcare," Burns said.

For the UA Babycats, the top priority is advocating for satisfactory UA-supported childcare, she said.

The inadequacy of UA assistance has made things even more difficult for student parents, who are already busy juggling other daily, and more important, responsibilities, said Diane Sotelo, 30, graduate student in public administration.

"The UA is not very child, family or baby-friendly," Sotelo said. "Last year when I had a newborn, I would have to rush home to breast feed or pump or anything like that. We all know parking is a problem try leaving throughout the day to run home."

"There are no places in the student union with private rooms for families, breastfeeding, playtime, anything," she said.

Research by the Commission on the Status of Women found that approximately 1,400 graduate students at the UA have children, said Shelly Adrian, graduate student in anthropology.

"We know that undergraduate students have kids too, because they use the childcare programs provided through UA LifeWorks," Adrian said. "And it was undergraduate parents who started Babycats."

A Babycats babysitter's social was held at Hand in Hand preschool last Saturday to provide an opportunity for parents and kids to meet with potential babysitters, Burns said.

"We're trying to recruit more sitters," she said. Most babysitters who sign up to help the Babycats are family studies majors, but Burns said any student with references is welcome to apply.

Nyles Bauer, 32, is a microbiology and immunology doctoral student and a divorced father of a two-year-old son.

Bauer hopes Babycats can help him take care of his boy during the hours he spends working on his Ph.D.

"As a single parent, I'm hoping to trade some babysitting with others," Bauer said. "The UA is not helpful at all in supporting single parents with any services that I know of."

Part of the Hand in Hand preschool's sponsoring of the Babycats will include providing a place for the club to meet, said Christoff.

UA Babycats has been meeting on Fridays in the Student Union Memorial Center, but Burns said the change would be welcome.

"The student union just isn't a good place for kids to have to sit still in," she said.

Hand in Hand's sponsorship of UA Babycats ultimately is the result of shared interests, now unified as a single purpose.

"Being part of the university community, we believe that it's very important to be in touch with parents and to be able to accommodate their needs for quality healthcare," said Christoff. "That's what we're here for."

The Hand in Hand preschool is open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about enrollment, volunteer activities or Babycats, contact Cari Christoff at 795-4768.



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