Children in the "Young Twos" room at the Expanded Child Development Lab explore playtime options available to them with Ernie Kammin (foreground), a child development associate in the department of human and community development.
Photo by Bill Wiegand
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While toddlers and infants played in nearby classrooms, campus officials and invited guests gathered Jan. 28 in the multipurpose room of the Expanded Child Development Laboratory (ECDL) to celebrate the facility’s grand opening.
"In my mind as in yours, this day couldn’t come fast enough," Provost Richard Herman said. "It seems that things often take a long time to take place, but this one was certainly worth waiting for."
Located just east of the Child Development Laboratory (CDL) at 1105 W. Nevada St., the expansion has doubled CDL’s capacity from 96 to 192 children and has broadened the age range of children served to include full-time day care for infants from 6 weeks of age and day-care or half-day developmental preschool programs for children through age 5.
The $5.2 million building comprises 23,000 square feet and two floors with age-segregated playrooms, a university classroom and offices for faculty members. Observation booths with one-way glass allow visitors to monitor staff members and children in their classrooms.
During the 2000-2001 academic year, more than 2,760 classroom observations and 1,195 class projects were conducted at CDL by faculty and student researchers, representing six colleges and 36 different courses on the Urbana campus.
"The expanded lab will provide opportunities for students and faculty to take a leading role in improving child care for the nation, and I think that’s a noble task," Herman said.
Brent McBride, director of CDL, commended Herman, crediting him, Robert Easter, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and his predecessor David Chicoine for bringing the ECDL expansion to fruition.
"It is a challenge making the ECDL facility and the program a reality and a big task that I think is going to pay off handsomely," McBride said. "The sharing of (Herman’s) vision of how the ECDL program falls within the model of what land-grant universities should be engaged in is a true indication of their commitment."
In accordance with CDL’s research and community service missions, enrollment is selected to achieve diversity in terms of sex, race, ability and socioeconomic background in correlation with community demographics. Approximately 75 percent of CDL’s children belong to faculty and support staff members and students, and the remaining 25 percent to families not affiliated with the university. About one-third of the children come from low-income homes.
Weekly tuition rates at CDL range from $77.50 for preschoolers over 36 months of age in partial-day placements to $200 for infants and toddlers up to 24 months of age in full-day placements, rates comparable with community preschools and day care providers. However, tuition at CDL is based upon the cost of care, family size, family income and ability to pay.
Members of the Child Care Task Force, a coalition of campus groups concerned about child care issues, were pleased the CDL expansion was complete, but stated in a media advisory that the need for day care on campus still surpasses what the laboratory program offers.
"We hope the UI will continue to find resources to create more child care facilities and keep child care a priority," said Maeve Reilly chair of the task force. "In the time of a budget crisis, this is really something that could be an attractive incentive for prospective faculty, staff and students."
At the ECDL grand opening, Herman assured the crowd "we’re not done yet," and announced that programs for drop-in child care and sick-child care are under development.
The programs are being developed through the Success by 6 initiative, a community-based consortium of employer groups whose executive committee is chaired by Chancellor Nancy Cantor. Jointly funded by the university and the United Way of Champaign County, the Success by 6 project is modeled on a national program promoting the healthy development of young children.
The drop-in care program will provide back-up care when families’ regular child-care arrangements fall through (see story below).
Success by 6 is also investigating the possibility of providing in-home care for mildly ill children through area home health care agencies.
"We have talked to a couple of (the agencies), and they are interested in exploring this new program," said Associate Provost Kathleen Pecknold, a leadership committee member. "They already have people who are trained. It would require a different kind of training, but these are people who already like to work with people in their homes."
Drop-in child care coming soon
By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Child Care Resource Service (CCRS), a university-based child care information and referral program, will soon be offering a referral program for drop-in child care.
Judith Hartley, the director of CCRS, said the hope is to have the program operating within the next month or two. The service will soon begin interviewing candidates for a program coordinator position and are recruiting Champaign County child-care providers to offer drop-in care at their facilities.
Approximately a dozen child-care providers have been recruited thus far, Hartley said.
CCRS will maintain a database of participating child-care providers, age ranges of children accepted at their facilities and their rates. A Web-based reporting system is being created so providers can give CCRS daily updates on spaces available. Based upon that information, CCRS will match openings with clients when care is requested.
A family using the service will pay the child-care provider directly according to that provider’s rate.
"We’re encouraging parents to let us know if they’re interested in this program, and we will then give them information about the providers who have enrolled with us," Hartley said. "We encourage parents to visit the (facilities), just as you would when choosing a regular child-care program."
After making their site visits, parents will select the facilities or caregivers they want to use for drop-in care. They will then provide CCRS with pertinent information on their child such as dietary restrictions and emergency contacts that CCRS will disseminate to the day-care providers.
Although parents are encouraged to pre-register for the program, CCRS will register clients at the time the service is needed when necessary.
Hartley said an enrollment fee based upon income and family size may be charged, although many families may be able to enroll for free.
To enroll or learn more about the drop-in care program, contact CCRS at 333-3252 or (800) 325-5516.