As you may be aware, faculty, students and staff with young children face a particular challenge of finding adequate childcare to support their families and their careers. While childcare facilities on campus are excellent, they come nowhere near to meeting the demand; incoming faculty are told that the wait-list is two years or more, and many are never called. As a result, we have formed a group of concerned faculty, students and staff – the University Childcare Action Group – to organize an awareness campaign across campus, with the long-term goal of creating more childcare spaces on campus. We have been inspired by a similar initiative at the University of British Columbia, which succeeded in doubling the size of the childcare programme. We are moving in several directions to increase awareness of this issue, bringing scores of individual stories, needs and concerns to the attention of the administration.
******The Action Group has sent the following motion to UVic’s Board of Governors******
Childcare Motion: Whereas the provision of sufficient childcare is a key factor in faculty and staff recruitment, retention, productivity, student enrolment, and quality of life for all members of the UVic community; and in light of the growing crisis around the availability of childcare to UVic faculty, students and staff, the UVic Childcare Action Group urges the Administration to immediately expand the number of full-time childcare spaces on campus to meet the demand.
Due to recent infrastructure funding, multiple renovation projects and plans for a new athletic facility and residence tower, the University has an especially propitious opportunity to include childcare facilities within these new building projects. We eagerly await the opportunity to work with you in furtherance of this goal.
For more information, please consult our Facebook page
Summary Report on UVic Childcare Survey, September 2009 Lynne Marks, for the UVic Childcare Action Group
This is a summary of a recent survey of the childcare needs of UVic staff, faculty and students, conducted by the UVic Childcare Action Group.
The survey primarily focused on staff, faculty and graduate students, because of its method of dissemination. It was sent out via staff association and union listservs (CUPE 915, CUPE 4163, PEA), faculty association and related listservs (Faculty Association and the Academic Women’s Caucus listservs) and the Graduate Student Society listserv. While the UVSS placed the link on their website, the survey was not able to actively solicit undergraduate involvement, so as a result we had a low response rate from undergraduate students.
The survey did, however, have a high response rate from faculty and staff.
The total response rate from the survey between September 4th, when it was sent out, and September 12th, was 604 responses. 241 of these were from faculty and librarians. Since there are 812 faculty and librarians on campus, the survey had a 30% response rate among this group. An additional 225 responses were from staff, while 32 were from PEA members and 74 from graduate students.
Women made up the majority of those responding. Women made up 69 % of all respondents, and 65 % of the faculty who responded. Women make up 45 % of all faculty. This points to the fact that while childcare is an issue for many members of the UVic community, and an issue that can and does negatively impact the work lives and productivity of both men and women, it is an issue that disproportionately impacts women, and in a most negative way.
The relative lack of availability of UVic childcare, which we have heard about anecdotally, came through very clearly in this survey. Of the 204 who responded to the survey who currently have children six and under, 44 had at least one child in the UVic childcare, out of the total of 289 children under six reported by these respondents, meaning that 15% of children six and under of those responding to the survey were in UVic childcare. (Given that UVic has 88 spaces for children 6 and under it means that the parents of half of the children currently in the childcare are represented in this survey). The majority of the remaining children who were not in UVic childcare were in other forms of paid care, either daycare or a paid caregiver at home. (Childcare questions, #3) Many of those commenting on this question noted that they were never called by the UVic childcare, even though they put their child on the list when he/she was born, or that they were only called after three or four years on the waitlist.
In answer to the question (Childcare questions, #4)
“If space were available how many children aged 6 years and under in your household would be in UVic childcare given current UVic childcare conditions and rates?” 154 of 203 respondents commented that one or more children under 6 in their households would be in UVic childcare if space were available (some already have one child at UVic, but have had to make other arrangements for one or more other children). So 76 % of 203 respondents with children six and under would have their children in UVic childcare if more space were available. Since a number of the respondents would like to have two or more children at UVic, if space were available we are talking about well over 154 more children whose parents would like to have them at UVic childcare. (And we are talking here only about those responding to this survey, and only those with children under 6, not those of after-school care age).
Waitlists and Cost
While the extensive waitlists, particularly for infant and toddler care have told us that the demand for childcare dramatically exceeds supply of spaces, the survey also demonstrates that many who would ideally like UVic childcare are not even on the waiting list, having given up on the possibility. We asked people if any who have or have had children of the appropriate age decided not to register on the waitlist for the UVic childcare/out of school care, and if so, why. (Additional questions, # 1 and 2) Of the 458 who answered this question 184 (40 %) responded yes, they decided not to register their child on the waitlist, with over 55 % stating that they chose not put their child/children on the waitlist because the waitlist was too long. An additional 36 % stated that their reason was that the UVic daycare was too expensive. Other comments by respondents make it clear that the UVic daycare is too expensive for many staff and students, as well as some assistant professors.
Recruitment and Retention
Answers to the questions suggest that for a significant number of respondents availability of childcare is an issue of recruitment and retention. In answer to the statement that “The availability of daycare or out-of-school care facilities at UVic was an important consideration when I decided to attend/work at UVic” (childcare questions, #1) 23% completely agreed, while 17% somewhat agreed. Among graduate students 35 % completely agreed, while 10% somewhat agreed. Among assistant professors 37 % completely agreed, while an additional 19% somewhat agreed, for a total percentage of assistant professors for whom childcare was a relatively or extremely important consideration in deciding to accept a job offer at UVic of 57 percent.
Many of these assistant professors have noted that they felt betrayed at having been told about UVic’s great childcare facilities in their interview, while they were unable to access the facility after arrival. A number noted that childcare spaces had been much more accessible at their previous institution, or at another institution at which they had interviewed.
In answer to the question “If you currently have a young child, or are considering having a child, has the difficulty in accessing UVic daycare ever led you to consider working or studying elsewhere?” (additional questions, #7) 32 % answered yes. 44% of graduate students answered yes to this question. Among assistant professors, 50 % answered yes, pointing to the fact that among the most recently recruited academics at UVic childcare is a very significant retention issue. In answer to the question “Do you know of anyone who has left UVic or not take a position at UVic due to limited availability of childcare?” (additional questions, #8) 25.5% answered yes, while among assistant professors 53% answered yes. A number of respondents who provided comments in answer to this question noted that they knew of interviewees for UVic faculty positions who chose not to take up job offers, at least in part as a result of the lack of accessible childcare on campus.
Access (or lack of access) to childcare clearly impacts the time one can spend working, as well as one’s ability to focus on one’s work, and on productivity. In answer to the question “Has the fact that you have not been able to have your child in UVic daycare/out-of-school care required you to make compromises in various areas?” (additional questions, #5)
47 % stated that it had impacted the amount of time they could devote to their work.
33 % stated that it had negatively impacted their productivity.
24% stated that it had negatively impacted the quality of care they provided for their children.
21% stated that it had negatively impacted the cost of care they provided for their children.
Below are a few of the many comments received in response to this question:
Productivity and amount of time devoted to work have decreased because of the need to call/visit a lot of other daycares during business hours to find a spot.
Under no circumstances will I compromise quality of care for my child. This means that when I do not have childcare, I simply don’t work (or my husband doesn’t), even though I am officially a full time employee. I did this for 3 months straight when I started working at UVic because there was no childcare available at UVic or elsewhere. My productivity also drops substantially when I am not comfortable with my childcare arrangements. This has been my largest source of stress over the past several years.
While I was looking for daycare, I was spending many hours a week calling around to find my daughter a spot, hours that I should have been spending working.
Obviously, if I am doing childcare I am not doing research or preparing for teaching. Also, if I have anxiety about childcare, it is harder to focus, and if I am looking for alternatives, then that also takes away time from the work the University pays me to do.
Until 3 days ago, my son was in a home daycare run by a single individual. When she was unable to provide care (for reasons of illness, etc) I often had no choice but to stay home with him. I also needed to leave work early from time to time to pick up my son because the hours of daycare were limited. And it was more expensive than UVic daycare.
Convenient daycare or out-of-school care would be an enormous boon to those of us who need to conduct research in order to sustain our careers.
We had to find childcare through unlicensed providers, and we spent our entire first year in Victoria searching and struggling with low-grade and part-time providers.
It put me 4 years behind in all aspects of my career–professional development, publishing– and caused immeasurable stress between myself and my husband. One of us had to be at home with our daughter for her first 6 years. Our incomes remained low, and we were both overwhelmed all the time. ALL the time. I started grad school pregnant and began teaching as a sessional after grad. Had I been able to drop my child off at UVic daycare, I would have been able to complete creative work that would have led to a regular faculty position much sooner.
For many more examples of the very difficult compromises and struggles facing UVic faculty, staff and students who lack access to UVic childcare see comments in Appendix B and C. For a statistical summary of the entire report, see Appendix A. Survey respondents who have their children in UVic childcare centres noted the excellent quality of care provided there. However, the point made very clearly by almost all survey respondents was that more childcare spaces are needed at UVic. The survey clearly demonstrates that the relative lack of childcare at the university creates serious problems for many people – staff, faculty and graduate students – at UVic. It causes some to regret their decision to come to UVic, others to consider or actively plan to look for work elsewhere, and has a major impact on productivity and quality of life. It disproportionately affects women’s ability to focus on their work, making it a serious equity issue.
It is hoped that the survey will help to underline the very great need for significantly increasing the number of childcare spaces available to UVic faculty, staff and students.
For more information about the UVic Childcare Action Group, please consult our pamphlets:
UVic Child Care Action Group Flyer