May 5, 2010
Bethany Scott and George Mauzy
The child care situation in Athens is often an interesting topic of discussion, especially within the Ohio University community.
Susanne Dietzel, director of the Ohio University Women's Center, said faculty, staff and students often call or stop by the center with child care questions. She said many of them don't know where to find help, especially non-traditional and graduate students.
"Temporary child care is much needed on campus," Dietzel said. "We need drop-in care child care centers on campus where people can leave their children for an hour or two while they are in class, studying or at work. There is also a need for care on snow days and early release days. This is a huge problem for many families and they end up bringing the children to their workplace."
In 2007, the Athens Community Child Care Partnership, which is made up of representatives from Ohio University, the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) and several other area agencies, administered two surveys to the local community and had some interested findings.
In the surveys, many parents indicated that the lack of childcare has impacted their ability to attend school or work, and more than 70 percent said they would prefer to place their child in a child care center rather than with a home-based provider. Most respondents also wanted full-time, weekday childcare, were concerned about the high cost of childcare, and said they often need child care when school is out of session.
Amanda Sutphin, child care coordinator at COAD, said her office offers free counseling and referral services to parents seeking child care. Once a call is made, a counselor asks parents specific questions about their criteria for child care, such as what days it is needed and whether the child has special needs. The counselor follows up with the caller within a month.
COAD keeps a database with all of the area's licensed, certified and registered child care providers. Although COAD personnel provide information on how to choose care, they leave it to the parents to make the final choice.
Sutphin said COAD gives parents a list of questions to ask providers when during their visit and follow up with them within 30 days after the referral. She suggests parents visit the homes of child care providers to make sure that bathrooms are kept clean, electrical wires are kept in a safe place and that there is an open door policy which allows them to visit anytime. She also recommends that they ask providers what types of activities the children will be doing.
Patricia Schaad, infant and toddler coordinator for COAD, said the quest for affordable and quality child care can be more difficult for parents of infants – especially those who prefer center-based care over home-based care. She said higher licensing standards, physical space requirements and teacher/child ratios are a few of the reasons infant care is more expensive and harder to find for parents.
Schaad said COAD recommends that parents place their name on providers' waiting lists before the baby is born.
"With 10 child care centers and 41 certified child care providers in Athens County, there are options available to parents who need child care," Schaad said. "The first step for them is to call us and then we can help them from there."
For more information or to receive a child care referral, contact COAD at 1-800-577-2276 or www.coadinc.org.