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New graduate student child care network at MIT

Pilot program will support child care providers who care for children of graduate students in the providers’ licensed homes on campus.
Photo: Mim Adkins Photography

The MIT Work-Life Center, in collaboration with the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), the Graduate Student Council (GSC), and the Division of Student Life (DSL), will launch a new Family Childcare Network pilot in Eastgate and Westgate campus housing this academic year. The MIT Family Childcare Network will support the training, state licensing, and program operations of child care providers, who will care for children of graduate students in the providers’ licensed homes located within Eastgate and Westgate. The Family Childcare Network is the product of ongoing efforts to support graduate student families and enhance their educational experience at MIT. It will launch as a two-year pilot.

The first phase of the pilot program will involve recruiting caregivers from among graduate student spouses and partners residing in Eastgate and Westgate. Only those spouses and partners eligible to work in the United States may become licensed to provide care in the network. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Office of Early Education and Care (OEEC) will license caregivers who meet the requirements, which focus primarily on home safety but also include some training and caregiving experience.

A local high-quality non-profit child care agency, Nurtury Inc., contracted by MIT, will manage the program and facilitate the licensing process; handle background checks; provide some supplies and startup funds; and offer training, ongoing support, and business help for the caregivers — such as setting up insurance and drawing up contracts with families whose children are in care. Nurtury is a Boston-area organization that has provided high-quality early care and education programs for communities within Greater Boston for over 130 years; it currently serves more than 1,300 children in six centers and 130 licensed homes of family child care educators.

The recruitment and licensing process will create an initial network of campus-based family child care that is expected to grow over time, and is planned to launch in January of 2016.

MIT Housing has agreed to exempt, on a limited basis, licensed providers within the Campus Family Childcare Network from the Housing Lottery, such that any Family Childcare Network provider who meets the Lottery eligibility criteria before the start of each year will be prioritized in Eastgate and Westgate. Once providers are up and running, they can stay in the same apartment year to year, as long as they remain a registered MIT graduate student and possess a current license for family child care. Further details are available from Kathy Kasabula, child care operations administrator at MIT Work-Life, at Information is available at the Work-Life website about all of MIT’s child care programs and parenting resources.

Graduate student spouses Anna Häggman and Sarah Andries, who worked on the program proposal with the MIT Work-Life Center, say this solution “diminishes some of the uncertainties parents might have about using a child care provider they do not know. There is a good chance that the parents and children know the spouse in question from the playground and social events.” Kathy Simons, senior program manager at the MIT Work-Life Center, notes, “During the years that the original campus family child care network was in operation, in the 1980s, MIT families were very successful at finding providers who met their specific needs and interests. It helped that parents and providers shared the experience of being students or student spouses at MIT.” The campus network offers an additional benefit, according to Andries and Häggman. “It will provide spouses with solid job opportunities, creating a second income for the student family.”

Within the new MIT Campus Family Childcare Network, each provider will be able to provide care for 4 to 6 children, including his or her own, depending on whether one or two licensed MIT affiliates provide the care. Once 12 providers (10 percent of the 120 licensable units) have been trained and licensed, the program will meet its first-year goal to make care available for an estimated 30 to 50 infants, toddlers, and older children.

The MIT Campus Family Childcare Network for students will be overseen by the MIT Work-Life Center, which will work with Nurtury, Campus Housing, the ODGE, and other MIT offices to connect interested parties with Nurtury resources.

Dean for Graduate Education Christine Ortiz announced the program on Sept. 22, stating, "Supporting graduate student family life is essential in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and a holistic graduate education experience. This program will make access and affordability easier as well as diversify childcare options." 

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