Child Care Review Group (Spring 2021)
The Child Care Review Group is charged with laying the groundwork for establishing long-term and affordable quality child care on Mount Holyoke’s campus. This assessment is considering the current on-campus child care provision offered at The Gorse Children’s Center in partnership with Bright Horizons, as well as other opportunities that might exist for on-campus child care in the future. The committee is currently conducting a deep dive into the data to assess the options for achieving the charge.
The committee is also identifying and representing the diverse child care needs of Mount Holyoke employees, parenting students, and the wider South Hadley community through broad consultation, including users of the Gorse Children’s Center.
The committee is taking a broad and forward-looking view of support for Mount Holyoke employees who are parents — one aligned both with the College’s mission to advance gender equity and its limited resources. The Committee has been meeting weekly since April 7, 2021 and will make recommendations by June 15, 2021.
July 22, 2021
With the report and recommendations of the Childcare Review Group in hand, the College has transitioned and empowered a smaller group that is working to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to potential childcare providers later this summer.
To that end, a Request for Information (RFI) was sent to over 80 local and regional childcare providers on July 16, 2021. The intent of the RFI is to inform the providers that a Request for Proposal will be coming out in the near future, and to give them an indication of what some of the highest priority items will be when the College considers proposals. It will also help the College get an early indication of how many providers might be interested in proposing for the contract. If you would like to request that the College send it to a potential provider, please email email@example.com.
Additional updates from the Childcare RFP group will be posted here in the coming weeks. The RFP group includes several members from the Childcare Review Group, as well as finance and procurement staff and a parenting student.
June 22, 2021 | Final Report: Executive Summary
Following the community’s response to the February decision not to renew the Bright Horizons’ contract with Gorse Children’s Center for fiscal year 2021–2022, the College secured a one-year extension to ensure continuity of care for families with the understanding that we would conduct a thorough study of community child care needs, Gorse’s role in meeting those needs, and other models of sustainable child care facilities in the state. To that end, President Stephens charged a Child Care Review Group (CCRG) with providing recommendations for sustainable, long-term, on-campus child care going forward. The membership was finalized in April 2021, and after early meetings in which the group came to a shared agreement about goals and priorities, the committee divided into three working subgroups focused on:
- Creating, implementing and analyzing a survey of community childcare needs;
- Analyzing Gorse’s operations (including contracts, enrollments, and budgets) in the context of other local child care facilities; and
- Studying the operations of other child care centers/models.
This report summarizes the work of these three subcommittees in the three subsections below and culminates in the committee’s recommendations.
Brief Overview of the National Child Care Context
In order to contextualize the Gorse situation, it’s important to consider the national landscape of child care. The lack of affordable child care in America is so problematic that it has been called a crisis, an epidemic and, in comparison to other wealthy countries, an embarrassment. Middle class families spend 14% of their income on child care. Lower-wage workers spend more than twice that proportion of their income -- 35% -- on child care. Most child care workers barely make a living wage, and this income insecurity is worse for women of color who work in the child care field. Given the already steep costs of child care in the US, asking parents and families to pay more for child care in order to provide minimally-reasonable wages to child care workers is not a solution. President Biden’s American Families Plan acknowledges that the subsidization of child care cannot rest on the wages of the families. Support for child care must come from elsewhere, but so far, there is only so much the government has been empowered to do. This situation leaves employers in the position of needing to evaluate what they are able to do to support parenting employees, and in particular, support the retention of working mothers in the workforce.
Survey Subgroup Report
This subgroup created, advertised, and analyzed a comprehensive survey of the campus and broader communities related to childcare. Through broad outreach and advertisement of the survey, we obtained a sample of 669 participants. A full summary of the survey findings are provided in the CCRG Survey Executive Summary. The primary findings identified are:
- There is strong support for continued on-campus child care, including infant care;
- Cost is a major barrier to utilizing current on-campus child care, and there is a robust request for future on-campus options to be more affordable for Mount Holyoke students and employees;
- Child care is valued on-par with other employee benefits (i.e., not as more or less important than other benefits);
- There are some differences across race and gender, as well as between faculty and staff, regarding on-campus child care priorities; and
- Members of the surrounding communities who use Gorse, or plan to use it, have similar reasons for choosing it, including the teachers, location, hours of operation, and range of services.
Gorse Financial / Contract / Enrollment Subgroup Report
This subgroup was tasked with providing an overview of the historical and current state of financial and enrollment data related to the operations of Gorse. In addition to reviewing the various costs associated with Gorse, the work of this subgroup included an analysis of the current and projected enrollment statistics, and the historical application of the existing scholarship structure. This subgroup also reviewed relevant financial information from other local child care facilities for comparison. Some of the primary findings are:
- Over the past five years, Gorse has averaged 75-80 full-time equivalent children (FTE), which is below the maximum capacity of the physical space;
- Mount Holyoke developed a scholarship program for employees over a decade ago but this has not led to increased employee enrollment at Gorse;
- Between 2017-2020, children of Mount Holyoke employees accounted for roughly 1/3 of all FTE children;
- In addition to paying a management fee, the College provides support to Gorse through the rent-free provision of the building, regular maintenance, including snow removal and grounds-keeping, and funding to support the relationship between academic programs and the Center; and
- In the Pioneer Valley, many of the most expensive child care options are associated with the five colleges.
Other Models Subgroup Report
This subgroup explored how other colleges approach childcare benefits: if they had centers, what management models those centers employed and with what cost and quality implications (to the extent that could be determined); and what other benefits, if any, were offered either in addition to, or instead of, on-campus care. The group’s primary focus was on benefits offered by colleges fairly comparable to Mount Holyoke in terms of size, endowment, and location/context, though this subgroup also considered a larger range of child care centers and benefits possibilities to determine aspirational opportunities and/or approaches that might be adapted to the circumstances of Mount Holyoke.
This involved preliminary research of published employee benefits and exploring college daycare center websites, from which the group identified trends and patterns worth further investigation. The group then compiled a list of colleges and centers to contact directly and members spoke with the directors of several college child care centers to learn more. The primary findings identified are:
- Colleges with child care centers often offer various tuition-mitigation strategies for their employees to make use of the center (discounts and scholarships seem to be the most common);
- Vouchers for staff and faculty to apply to external child care seem to be very uncommon;
- Child care facilities with infant care need subsidizing; none of the interviewed schools that included infant care in their portfolio were able to support it without additional investment or additional offerings in their programming;
- Infant care drives up costs significantly but is a vital and scarce resource;
- Additional offerings that supported the subsidization of infant care included robust after-school programs and summer camps for school-age children;
- There is a child care trilemma (quality, affordability, availability) that each college-affiliated center grappled with in different ways. The nature of this trilemma is that it is essentially impossible to improve quality, pricing and availability simultaneously; and
- The three most common models at college-affiliated child care centers can be described as: the college subsidizes a for-profit child care provider, the college subsidizes a non-profit provider, and the college establishes its own center and operates it as an extension of the institution.
Based on the extensive work completed in the subgroups, the entire CCRG then considered and submitted a list of recommendations to President Sonya Stephens. These recommendations, submitted on June 15, 2021, resulted from primary and secondary research that included a community-based survey, a review of relevant local and national child care programs, interviews with child care program directors, and conversations with multiple community representatives, including parenting students, current Gorse families, local workforce specialists, early education experts, and faculty at Mount Holyoke.
The first and most important recommendation of the CCRG is that a request for proposals (RFP) to vendors for an on-campus child care provision should be issued with broad outreach. The CCRG recommends that the request should seek proposals from a broad variety of child care providers, including, but not limited to, nonprofit organizations, community-based programs, and for-profit providers.
Based on the work of the CCRG and the related community-needs assessment, the committee recommends that successful proposals will contain the following components:
Key Recommendations to be taken up by RFP Respondents
- Infant care should be provided;
- Mount Holyoke faculty, staff, and students should be prioritized for admissions;
- Flexible hours and schedules (i.e., full day and half-day options, full week and single-day options) should be available;
- The Center’s schedule should be aligned with the College’s academic calendar;
- Connections to the academic program at Mount Holyoke should be included and provided for following a review of program priorities by the Department of Psychology and Education;
- School-age offerings (i.e., summer camp, after-school programs) should be expanded, including options for older children;
- Strategies to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work at the Center (e.g., among staff — including in the hiring process, in service of supporting families and children, within the curriculum) must be outlined and addressed;
- A plan for clear communication between staff and Gorse families should be included (e.g., a mechanism for daily communication, check-ins, etc.);
- Willingness to work with early intervention specialists, including allowing them on-site to see children; and
- Selection of an excellent (visionary) center director.
In addition to the recommendations for the RFP outlined above, the work of the CCRG uncovered several campus community priorities. Our recommendations in relation to these are outlined below.
The committee recommends that Mount Holyoke leadership consider the following:
Recommendations to be taken up by MHC Leadership
- The College should establish and support a standing child care committee comprised of faculty, staff and students that meets quarterly to review components of the child care program and the College relationship with Gorse, including issues such as financial concerns, DEI initiatives, and curricular changes;
- Mount Holyoke employees should continue to receive a sliding scale or subsidy, though the current rates should be revisited. A student subsidy should be explored;
- The Mount Holyoke subsidy, whatever form it takes, should be clearly and broadly communicated to members of the campus community; and
- The College should expand on-campus parent/family-friendly services that are not related to the child care center specifically (e.g., nursing and pumping rooms and refrigerated storage capacity, additional changing stations, and dedicated gathering spaces designed for children).
May 26, 2021
The Child Care Survey came to a close today, and in total 756 responses were received:
- 165 currently employed faculty, plus 4 emerti.
- 262 staff.
- 63 students, including 7 FPs and 2 PaGE.
- 117 non-MHC affiliated with children enrolled at Gorse.
- 145 non-MHC affiliated, no children enrolled at Gorse/Other.
The survey subgroup is beginning the process of both quantitative and qualitative analyses of all responses.
In addition, the Child Care Review Group has had and will continue to have a variety of meetings with various constituents, including:
- Campus partners involved in academic connections between the College and Gorse.
- An expert in cooperative business models.
- Parents who are students.
- Representatives from the local community.
The committee is on track to present their recommendations to the President on June 15.
May 6, 2021
Sonya Stephens reiterated the College's commitment to sustainable on-campus child care using the Gorse facility by making the following statement at both the Faculty Meeting and the Operations Priorities Council (OPC) meeting on May 5:
Continuity of care at the Gorse Center past summer 2022 is one desired outcome of the Child Care Review Group’s work. Mount Holyoke is deeply committed to this resource, the existence of which is closely aligned with our values and mission. The Child Care Review Group is therefore actively seeking not only to preserve but also improve this valuable asset for Mount Holyoke and the surrounding community.
May 5, 2021
The committee’s initial work has included establishing a schedule and working out logistical details, creating and populating a Google Drive with important resources and coming to a shared understanding of its charge.
Three subgroups have been established and are currently working on:
- The development of a community survey to better understand child care needs and the factors that underlie the choices people make when deciding how to meet those needs.
- The operations, enrollments and costs associated with Gorse and comparative facilities in western Mass and at similar colleges.
- Researching additional child care resources that might make sense for us — again, looking to comparable colleges to understand the broader landscape.
The survey will seek feedback from College employees and students as well as local residents. We expect it to go live the week of May 10, 2021, and the link will be available here. We also plan to post additional updates on our work in late May and again in mid June.
- Gary Gillis, Norman Wait Harris and Emma Gale Harris Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences; Associate Dean of Faculty; Director of the Science Center
- Jennifer Wallace Jacoby, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education; Director of First-Year Seminars
- Nicole Amrani, Department Coordinator, Departments of Physics and Astronomy
- Shannon Da Silva, Associate Director of Equity and Compliance, Title IX & 504 Coordinator
- Jaime DeCaro, Senior Administrative Assistant and Office Manager, Office of Student Involvement
- Corey Flanders, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education
- Hannah Goodwin, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies
- Abigail Hoover, Museum Registrar/Collections Manager, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
- Cynthia Legare ’82, Benefits and Training Manager, Human Resources
- Jessica Maier, Associate Professor of Art History
- Julie Parks, Accounting Manager-Disbursements and Grants, Financial Services
- Marta Sabariego, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior
- Ananya Singh ’22, MHC Student