By Raya Tahan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Students who are parents can get a break from their children this week as ASUA offers Kids' Week, an annual event designed to give parents a chance to relax and remind the administration about the need for on-campus child care.
Free child care, featuring a visit from Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat, arts, crafts and movies, will be offered for children of UA students, said Gaurav Parnami, ASUA Special Events director. Parnami and ASUA volunteers will supervise the children during Kids' Week, which begins today and runs through Thursday.
The first Kid's Week was organized by Associated Students of the University of Arizona in 1991 to stress the need for campus child care to the administration, Parnami said.
"My direct purpose this year is simply to give student-parents a chance to do homework, see a movie, go out to dinner or just relax, but if the administration takes notice, that would be wonderful," Parnami said.
The group will offer three to four hours of child care each night, he said.
Mimi Gray, coordinator of UA Child Care Initiatives, said the University Commission on the Status of Women reported last spring that the university needs to offer child care.
"We are the only PAC-10 university that has no children's programming Ä such as a preschool or child care facility Ä which is university-sponsored or related," she said. "We need to do a better job for children and find a place for them in the university."
Gray said it appears that the administration is improving its offerings. Since the child care office where she works opened in August, she has researched ways to aid student-parents, and said she sees on-campus child care as a possibility in the near future.
"There are a zillion different ways to approach the issue," Gray said. "I think we should explore all of them."
She said 7 to 10 percent of the university's population, about 2,500 to 3,500 students, are also parents.
"There is a huge population of students not being served," she said.
Gordon Gilbert, a Near Eastern
studies senior who has a 4-month-old daughter, said the expense of child care is a stumbling block for many students. The average cost for a month of child care in Tucson is $500, with higher figures closer to campus, said Gilbert, president of the Student-Parent Club.
Facilities with flexible hours are often inaccessible, as well as those that care for infants, Gray said.
"The quality of child care facilities is abysmal," she said. "It ranges from wonderful programs to very inappropriate ones."
These issues hinder student-parents who often find it difficult to participate in full-time classes and out-of-class activities, in addition to finding suitable child care.
Sheletha McEaddy, a graduate student of public administration and the parent of a 2-year-old daughter, said she doesn't feel the university offers "much at all" for student-parents.
"There needs to be a child care center on campus to offer more flexibility with the student schedule," she said.
Gray said she is encouraging the Student Union, as they plan revisions, to devote space to children.
"We need to do a better job for children and find a place for them in the university," she said.
Parents interested in Kids' Week can call Parnami at 621-2782.
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