Sept. 4, 2007
By George Mauzy
A recent Ohio University Child Care Task Force report confirmed what most area residents already knew: The Athens area needs more affordable child care and more communication to the community on the topic.
During open forums several years ago, Ohio University employees voiced concern about the lack of adequate child-care options in the Athens area. In response, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl formed a Child Care Task Force in July 2006 and asked it to identify child care needs for the area and recommend solutions. The task force worked on the project with the Corporation of Ohio Appalachian Development and the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.
After reviewing the results of an online survey conducted last winter and feedback from public meetings with local child-care providers, university employees and area business owners, the Child Care Task Force made several recommendations. Those suggestions (and Krendl's responses) are:
- Solicit proposals from local and national care providers who might be interested in starting a business in the Athens area to increase the options for consumers wanting professional home- and center-based child care.
Response: Krendl will appoint a university representative to work with COAD and the chamber to draft a plan to accomplish the goal of increasing child-care availability in the community.
- Provide better child-care information to the community via the Internet and published materials. This includes encouraging eligible students to apply for child-care benefits through Athens County Job and Family Services.
Response: Krendl supports allocating $17,500 to go toward developing a comprehensive Ohio University child care Web site that links to COAD's site, creating new employee recruitment materials and republishing the Guide to Child Care brochure.
- Train university supervisors to create a child-care friendly work environment. Many university employees felt their supervisor was not supportive of their special child-care needs.
Response: Krendl charged University Human Resources with increasing training efforts for all supervisors in the family-friendly application of policy, particularly sick leave and family and medical leave policies.
- Reissue the child-care survey to the local community to further identify needs not identified by the first survey. The task force hopes to receive more feedback from people outside the university, particularly the business community, from the second survey.
Response: Krendl pledged $800 to fund this action to be done jointly by ILGARD and the chamber.
In the long-term, the task force also would like to see the university:
- Work with community partners to start a home-based child-care network
- Develop a mentoring program for child care providers that assists them in areas such as licensing, business plans and management
- Add an employee benefit for child care
- Explore expansion opportunities for the Child Development Center
These recommendations were referred for further study by appropriate committees and/or departments.
"It was clear during the strategic planning process that access to child care in Athens is a significant challenge," Krendl said. "The partnership that has emerged -- including the university Child Care Task Force, COAD and the Athens Chamber of Commerce -- is a great step forward in identifying effective solutions. With these groups working together, I am confident that the entire Athens community will be well-served."
Krendl has asked Jim Kemper, associate vice president for finance and administration for human resources, to pull together a small working group of the Child Care Task Force to prepare an implementation plan by Sept. 28.
"I credit Executive Vice President and Provost Krendl for realizing the need for more child care in this area," said task force chair Terry Conry. "The Athens Chamber of Commerce estimates there are more than 800 employees on East State Street -- many of whom need child care. So this is not just an Ohio University issue."
The task force's online survey revealed that 83 percent of the 912 respondents believed the lack of child care has interfered with their ability to attend school or work. About 94 percent of the respondents were Ohio University faculty, staff or students. It also showed that 71 percent of respondents favored center-based child-care providers over home-based providers.
A copy of the Child Care Task Force report is expected to be posted soon at www.ohio.edu/provost.