IUSB child care center in jeopardy

Administrators consider outsourcing the campus Child Development Center, which provides daycare services for the children of students and employees.

Posted on March 15, 2014 at 2:48 p.m.

SOUTH BEND — Indiana University South Bend administrators are considering outsourcing the campus Child Development Center, as reported by the South Bend Tribune. The center provides daycare services for the children of students and employees.

The university has requested proposals from outside vendors for management and operation of the center, said Ken Baierl, chief of staff to Chancellor Terry Allison.

The child care center operates at a deficit each year, and it’s been necessary for the campus to subsidize it to keep it in operation, Baierl said. The 2012-2013 deficit was $140,000, he said.

If an affordable way can’t be found to provide the service, the child care center could close, Baierl said. But that would be a last option, he said.

“We want to keep the center open. We’re working very hard to do that. Hopefully this process will allow us to do that,” he said. We want our students to have access to child care, because we know it makes them better students.”

Proposals from outside vendors are due April 1.

Once the proposals are reviewed, a decision will be made about whether the child development center will continue to operate on campus, Baierl said.

The news is alarming to some parents who rely on the facility and praise the quality of its services and staff. About 70 percent of parents with children enrolled in the center are IU South Bend students.

Student Lisa Carr, of South Bend, is circulating a petition on campus that supports the current daycare operation.

The petition says, in part, “We feel outsourcing would be a huge mistake, and sends the message that the one organization on campus that many nontraditional students, such as us, rely on, the university doesn’t feel is worth supporting!”

More than 200 people so far have signed the petition.

Lisa and her husband, Derek Carr, also a student, rely on the center to care for their two young sons.

To nontraditional students, the Child Development Center is one of the most valuable services on campus, Lisa Carr said. “We don’t really care about the Student Activities Center and student housing. The child care center is what’s most important to us.”

If the service is outsourced to a commercial chain, Carr said, she’s concerned quality will suffer.

Carr said she’ll be circulating the petition for the next few weeks, then delivering it to the dean of the School of Education to pass on to top administrators.

Student Miranda Kaminski, of North Liberty, shares those concerns. She relies on the center for care of her two children.

“Up to this point, I’ve been very satisfied. My kids get super excited to see their teachers there and see their friends,” Kaminski said.

The center staff is like extended family, she said. “I wonder why they picked the child care center as part of their budget cuts?”

She doesn’t want to see the facility close or move off campus. The center’s location in the south section of the Administration Building makes it a convenient place to drop off her children and also stop by between classes to see them, she said. “It’s comforting to know I can do that,” she said.

Parents with children enrolled at the center received a March 7 letter signed by Mary Wilham-Countway, the center’s director. The letter informed parents that the university is seeking to outsource the services to an outside vendor.

The center traditionally has offered child care year-round. However, the letter informs parents that won’t be the case this year.

“With deep regret we are only able to offer services at this time for summer session I which ends on June 30th,” Wilham-Countway wrote in the letter.

Efforts to reach Wilham-Countway on Friday were unsuccessful.

The Student Government Association for years has helped subsidize the Child Development Center through student fees, Baierl said. Student government representatives recently voted to cease that financial support at the end of this academic year, he said.

Workers at the facility are IU employees. The center staff includes a director, administrative support specialist, five full-time lead teachers, five full-time teacher’s assistants and five part-time teacher’s assistants.

The Child Development Center started on campus in 1969 as a parent-babysitting cooperative with 15 children, according to the university. Since then, it’s grown into a state-licensed center that serves more than 70 children each semester.

IU Kokomo closed its child care center in 2012, according to the Kokomo Tribune. The university was subsidizing the center at a cost of almost $50,000 a year, and only 19 out of approximately 3,200 students on campus were using the center’s services, the newspaper reported.

Anyone interested in signing the petition may contact Lisa Carr at: lcarr2486@aol.com.

Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com.

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