[Parentsgroup-list] Harvard Daycare

Christine Dianne Wenc wenc at fas.harvard.edu
Fri Mar 17 09:39:06 EST 2006

The lack of available/affordable child care is a huge issue all across the
university, not just for grad students.  The big Bright Horizons survey
last year showed the available spots were woefully inadequate to meet the
demand.  I expect they keep their waiting lists minimal because of how
expensive they are.  The Women's Task Force report last year had a section
on child care issues; they didn't address grad students much but it's
obvious that a lack of high-quality, reasonably-priced care (full or part
time!) has an impact on women's academic careers.  (Even junior faculty
have a hard time shelling out $2000 a month for care, not to mention
support staff.)

Ideally, Harvard will come up with a solution that involves all parents
affiliated with Harvard, not just grad students.  However, given how
fragmented this institution is, I am not holding my breath on that
one--but we'll see.

My understanding (and I could be wrong) is that the state will not license
a co-op where there are no full-time employees--that is, we can't create a
licensed day care staffed only with grad student volunteers.  The other
issue is liability--I expect there is no way Harvard will approve anything
(including the use of space)
without having their lawyers & insurance people spend plenty of time
making sure they are covered if anyone sues, should their kid be injured
while in care.  This is fine with me, actually--but it will take some

In the short term, I expect forming co-ops amongst ourselves may be the
quickest way to go.  This is when 2-4 families get together and share
care of all the kids on different days of the week--Monday they're at A's
house, Tuesday they're at B's house, etc., and whatever parent lives there
takes care of everyone that day.  Sometimes the families will get
together and hire a nanny to work with them, so no one is stuck at home
alone for long periods of time with several small children--and the kids
also get at least one person who is with them every day the co-op meets.
The age mix of the group is up to the parents involved.

I've been doing a version of this with friends here in Roslindale for
about a year and it's GREAT.  Very flexible, friendly, and free or
very cheap compared to the other options--very
different from most official day care centers.  And you can work with
parents who share your parenting philosophy.  Of course, if you need 5
days a week of care, it won't work (unless a weekend day works), and you
need to have a 'cooperative' attitude.  But I think it can really be an
excellent option, especially for people with flexible schedules like
grad students--and, of course, it helps you spend a lot of time with
fellow grad student parents!

I also want to make it clear that stay-at-home partners of any grad
student are more than welcome to participate in any co-ops.  Even the most
dedicated stay-at-home parent needs a few hours a week to herself/himself.

Will keep you posted--I need to get back in touch with the library person

Christine (and yes, we should have a meeting about this soon)

On Fri, 17 Mar 2006 geren at fas.harvard.edu wrote:

> I am also interested in a coop, but not immediately since I was able to get my
> son into the Harvard affiliated center in my building. We can't afford it long
> term though so we will be looking for other options once he is nursing less.
> I was surprised to hear that the Harvard affiliated centers *try* to have 80% of
> families be Harvard affiliated. It seems like the demand at Harvard would far
> exceed the number of spots. The Harvard centers operate on year long contracts.
> I couldn't afford to/didn't want to put my infant son in care in September but
> was lucky to find an unfilled spot for December. It seems like it wouldn't be
> too hard to get the centers to inform the parents list when these mid-year
> spots open up since there may be others who are in a similar situation. Of
> course the bigger issue is probably to get more help from the University with
> scholarships for graduate student parents. The aid available from the centers
> themselves is quite minimal.
> I have a feel that the Harvard affiliated centers may view putting together a
> coop using University space as competition. I wonder if we could use this to
> our advantage. As this process progresses we could tell the centers about it
> and if they feel that it might affect their operation they might be willing to
> offer some help in getting student parents more financial aid. Just a thought.
> I am on the board at Harvard Yard Child Care Center this year so to avoid
> conflict of interest that's all I'll say about it.
> Best,
> Joy (mom of Toby, 9 months)
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