Child care on UA parents' wish list

By Sarah Mayhew

Arizona Daily Wildcat

nfant Isobelle Hasman lay snuggled against her mother's breast in a baby

sling as her 19-month-old sister Tristan sat nearby.

It was the first day of a three-hour studio art class. Betsy Hasman, 26, and husband Dylan, 28, both full-time University of Arizona students, misunderstood which one of them would be watching the children.

With Dylan already gone and no child care lined up for the day, Betsy had to take the girls to class.

For years student parents like the Hasmans have clamored for some form of child care support from the university.

Now, after three years of child care surveys, UA administrators say they are ready to do something about student and employee child care. But the long-awaited on-campus center may or may not materialize.

This summer, the university hired its first child care coordinator because of recommendations made in the UA Commission on the Status of Women's child care survey results released in January.

Under coordinator Mimi Gray's direction, the UA is now moving away from opening its own on-campus or near-campus day care center.

"If there's an on-site center that will happen, it's not going to solve people's problems," Gray said. "It will not be free. It will have to pay for itself."

The center discussed in the commission's survey would hold between 80 to 100 children. Three sites were surveyed for the center: the first is on the southeast corner of East Mabel Street and North Cherry Avenue, the second is at the northeast corner of East Speedway Boulevard and North Vine Street and the third is on the northeast corner of East Mabel and North Vine.

The commission estimates that between 2,500 and 3,500 students are parents, or almost 10 percent of the student body. And an estimated 27 percent of university employees are parents, higher than the average 20 to 25 percent of employees at most comparable institutions, according to the commission's survey.

Gray and the Child Care Steering Committee formed this year are investigating the possibility of a sliding-scale subsidy program similar to one begun by Gray at the Portland Community College.

That program pays up to 50 percent of the parents' school-related child care costs, including class and study time. This year the Portland program received $100,000 for full-time students' child care scholarships and is funded completely by student organizations.

A sliding-scale program would help pay for students' child care costs according to their need.

The UA began researching the child care needs of its students and employees in 1991 after the Arizona Board of Regents released a summary report of the regents' Commission on the Status of Women.

That report outlined 50 recommendations that each of the universities should complete by the year 2000 to better the position of women on each campus. One of those required the three state universities to set up their own commissions.

And recommendation number 35 called for child care solutions.

"Each university shall ensure that quality affordable and accessible child care is available to employees and student parents, either near or on-site," the recommendation states.

Gray and other university officials involved with day care say an on-site center is still being explored. But the new steering committee is not expecting to number its priorities until sometime this month. Gray is working on the subsidy idea and forming partnerships with private child care businesses.

"An on-site center is something that a lot of people are interested in," Gray said. "They would really love it to happen, but it is a long-time coming sort of like getting pregnant. You think about it, you do something about it. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. You try it again and then nine months later... so, you know, it's a process."

ut for students, last minute emergencies arise and there needs to be an affordable nearby place to drop

off their children, the Hasmans said.

The Hasmans are among a growing number of student parents filling a new niche in the university community. The couple is older and married with three children and pets. They are fixing up their first house. And they live almost solely on student loans and grants.

The family hit the ASUA bookstore together out of necessity, with 2-week-old Isobelle in the baby sling, Tristan in the baby backpack and 3 1/2-year-old Duncan in the stroller.

The Hasmans put the trip off as long as they could. They did not find everything they needed.

"Unfortunately, we have to go back," Betsy said. And they'll have to take the children with them.

Last year the Hasmans paid for private child care for their two oldest children, but decided to keep all three children home this year because driving them to affordable day care and back took too much time and too much money.

They paid about $100 a week for the two children's day care.

This school year, Dylan and Betsy arranged their class schedules so that they are home on alternating days.

They both said they liked all of the child care ideas from subsidies to on-campus baby-sitting.

"Something with financial assistance would be marvelous (and an on-campus center) would really change the way we go to school," Dylan Hasman said.

Others on campus said they need a drop-in day care center on or near campus.

Last April a 21-year-old UA student was arrested and charged with child neglect because she left her 4-year-old son in the courtyard between the Psychology and Modern Languages buildings while she attended class.

Synthia Alcantar told UA police that normally the boy was in day care and that she stood by the classroom door, keeping sight of her son. She also checked on the boy every seven minutes.

The fourth time she checked on him, the boy was missing because two students took him to an office building and called police.

Stacie Widdifield, an art assistant professor, gave birth to her second son last March. After a 1 1/2-week absence, Widdifield and baby returned to school.

"Teaching isn't a job where you can just get somebody to replace you," Widdifield said.

So, with a playpen in her office and people to watch baby Gibb while she was lecturing, Widdifield finished out the semester.

Now Gibb is receiving at-home care, which Widdifield said she discovered by a fluke she saw a note on a bulletin board in a nearby market. But for the first few days of this semester, Gibb was back in Widdifield's office.

The problem of students, faculty and staff knowing where to find quality, affordable day care is one of the issues Gray said she plans to tackle this year.

She is currently creating a day care database so she will be able to guide parents to the kind of care their children require and they can afford.

"I don't believe students, faculty and staff know the options that are available to them," Gray said. "It's very hit and miss."

he Arizona Department of Economic Security provides several child care subsidy pro-

grams for which full-time undergraduate students are eligible.

A Child Care Resource and Referral Service provides free day care information to parents and will match parents and child care institutions. The service is federally funded through DES by the Child Development Block Grant.

Private child care providers agreed with Gray's idea to set up child care scholarships, but want students to be directed to DES before they can be eligible for a university subsidy.

"You don't want them (the UA) paying for something that the state should be paying for," said Larry Cochran, president of the Arizona Child Care Association and owner of eight Tucson day care centers.

While the Hasmans live off of student loans, grants and periodic part-time work at a nearby coffee house, they have not gone to DES for child care subsidies.

Betsy Hasman gave birth one week before school began in August and sitting in a government office waiting

room for an extended period of time is more than she can handle now, she said.

"I haven't had the time or energy to do that," Betsy Hasman said.

That, administrators and Gray said, is why there is now a child care coordinator.

"It's not just talk," said Martha Gilliland, vice provost of academic affairs who oversees Gray. "It's time to perform. We have enough information."

But while the Child Care Steering Committee is busy prioritizing a mile-long wish list of child care needs and Gray is meeting with local preschools all day, changes will help only some.

"The university can in no way ever solve the child care problems of all the students, faculty and staff by itself. And even attempt to," Gray said.

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