Juggling classes, homework, clubs, sports and jobs seems like a full plate to most college students. However, some college students are also struggling to balance raising a child along with their college responsibilities and jobs.
Raising a child takes an immense amount of time and can cause a variety of struggles. One aspect of having a child that parents struggle with is finding quality childcare. Recognizing this problem, the Salisbury University Women’s Forum and the Seidel School of Education sent out a survey to see whether a childcare facility at SU would be supported and used by members of the SU community.
The survey was introduced to students on March 29, when it was sent out by SU professor Dr. Elsie Walker, the current chair of the SU Women’s Forum.
The survey was intended for all members of the SU community and is being used to measure both support and need for the possibility of a childcare center on campus.
For community members who would not need childcare, the survey takes under a minute to do. For members who would use the childcare, it takes five minutes or less.
“The purpose of the survey was to first of all establish whether there is widespread support for having a childcare facility at SU, and second of all, to figure out how people would use it,” Walker said.
SU is considering adding a childcare center to ensure that those with children in the SU community have options. While a there are many childcare businesses open in Salisbury, the surrounding rural areas lack childcare options, placing them in what is called a "childcare desert."
Even more, while there are numerous centers available in Salisbury, some have voiced the opinion that not all of these centers provide quality and affordable care.
Dr. Chin Hsiu Chen, the department chair for early childhood and elementary education, has done research on the "childcare desert" and has recognized that there is a need in the Salisbury area.
“What we know about the childcare desert is that in the remote, rural area, which is kind of where we are, there is definitely more need for childcare. Nationwide, we only have 10% of the childcare that is considered accredited, meaning that they meet quality level,” Chen said.
While the specifics, such as cost and location, of the proposed childcare center at SU are still in the works, a number of ideas have been suggested.
It wouldn’t be realistic to have the center be free of cost for parents; however, the survey is helping to assess what parents in the SU community would be able and willing to pay.
Members of SUWF are still in the process exploring possible locations for the center.
“We want to find some kind of location that is relatively convenient, whether that’s close in proximity to other SU buildings or perhaps even downtown," Walker said. "I can’t say for sure where it would happen, but I know we are going to explore various options for that.”
One big component that is playing into whether or not an SU childcare center is established is whether or not there is support from the community.
So far, the survey has had over 500 responses, mostly positive. Community support is vital in the forming of a childcare center, because of the cost and liability that comes with beginning a center for early childhood education. If there is support shown for this childcare initiative, ways to offset the cost can be explored.
“Our goal is, if we do have a support by the community, there are a lot of grants that are available [which] we can apply [for]," Chen said. "The government, even the federal government to the state government, push for the community to establish more quality early childhood education programs, so we can really use those resources in funding.”
The establishment of a new childcare center could have impacts beyond the first-hand effects on the children and parents who choose to use the center. Such a center would impact the Seidel School of Education by providing real experience and observation of children for SU students in the early childhood education track.
A childcare center could also be of benefit to those faculty, staff and students who have children in need of quality care. One such student who would see benefit is Bethany Goldsmith, a parenting senior at SU.
Because of the lack of childcare available at SU, Goldsmith feels that she was not able to have a typical college experience.
“If there had been daytime daycare when I was first at SU, I think it would have made my whole experience a lot easier," Goldsmith said. "I could’ve put her [my daughter] there during the day and I could’ve been in school during the day and had more of the traditional college experience."
Instead, Goldsmith had to take a lot more night classes, and felt that this hindered her experience.
Besides the Seidel School of Education and those who have children, Walker feels that opening a center would affect the SU community as a whole by allowing faculty, staff and students who have children to give more to their jobs, which would in turn cause those around them to benefit.
“The goal of this is not simply about serving a very particular need, it’s also about catering to the needs of the campus community in such a way that anyone who has a family is not only feeling that they have more support behind them, but also is able to give more in their jobs through the boost in morale [and] the practical greater allowance of time,” Walker said.
According to Chen, brain research has showed that the first five years of a child’s life are critical, and providing children with a strong foundation can help determine their success.
Chen believes that by providing quality childcare, statistically speaking, children would be able to develop a strong foundation more easily, and the establishment of a childcare center is investing in the future.
“We need to promote quality early childhood education in order to prevent [having to] intervene later on in children’s lives," Chen said. "Early childhood education matters. How we are going to solve a lot of the issues that we face today really has to start in early childhood.”
Both the Seidel School of Education and the SU Women’s Forum are hopeful about the potential of starting a quality center for childcare at SU.
If the survey receives enough support and shows the need for a childcare center, such childcare will be available in the future for both those who are members of the SU community as well as those in the greater community of Salisbury.
“We have the opportunity to create something that can be great for the people in the SU community, but also for the people in the community," Chen said. "This is not something that is just about SU; we have got to think bigger than that. I believe that as a higher ed, as an educator, we have that social responsibility.”
See https://salisbury.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9Ky4KC3akAPupeZ to participate in the survey.
By LAURA AMRHEIN
Featured photo: Bethany Goldsmith images.