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Release: June 23, 1999

UI study shows effects of child care on work of staff, student, faculty parents

IOWA CITY, Iowa —- The results of a recent University of Iowa child care survey confirm what many parents already know too well: home and family issues strongly affect performance on the job and in the classroom.

The survey went to nearly 6,000 UI faculty, staff, undergraduate, and graduate student parents with children under 15. "The availability of child care has an impact on the ability of staff and faculty to accomplish their goals at work," says Jennifer Modestou. "And it affects the academic success of student parents."

Modestou chairs the UI Family Issues Charter Committee, which carried out the survey last spring in partnership with the UI Family Services Office and the Iowa Social Science Institute. "This survey is part of the university's ongoing effort to make UI a good place for families," Modestou explains. "What we've learned reinforces the importance of child care to families. The survey also gives us new insight into their child care priorities."

Students reported feeling the greatest negative effects as the result of child care problems. Nearly half of undergraduates who responded and one third of graduate students reported moderate to serious effects on productivity because of problems associated with child care. Faculty and staff reported negative effects as well, but fewer than the students.

Current UI child care programs get good marks in the survey, but the university needs to do more to inform parents about its child care resources, says Modestou. "We have many good programs, but people often don't know they exist," she says. Each year, more than 255 children attend child care centers located on the UI campus. Currently about 75 UI graduate students receive child care stipends each year.

National data shows that for a family making less than $15,000 a year, child care consumes 25 percent of every paycheck, Modestou says. "So it is no surprise that UI parents call for better strategies to help low income parents with child care. UI parents would also like to see more flexibility at work. Flex-time and flex-place employment can help parents deal with the demands of job and family."

Another priority identified in the report is to develop strategies to help students and staff with temporary care for their children who are ill. Additional emergency sick leave days would help staff care for mildly ill children, the report concludes, and an "excused absence" policy would accomplish the same for students who must miss class to care for sick children.

Other priorities indicated by the respondents include greater availability of infant care, increased funding for child care stipends for students, and additional after-school programs for older children.

"The results of this survey are important," says Jane Holland, Family Services Coordinator for the university. "The survey results give us insight into what we can do to help parents succeed, and to make university child care programs a better resource for all our families."

The survey and its recommendations will now go to the UI department of human resources. Following review, the Family Services Office will work with the Family Issues Charter Committee to recommend an implementation plan.