Mother and child
Mother and child

On a recent evening, law student Linda G. found herself at home in need of back-up care for her 13-month-old daughter. With a daunting amount of work due the next day and without the usual help of her husband, who was out of town, she was left in the lurch. That was when, for the first time, Linda tried UC Berkeley’s Back-Up Child Care Program, the newest of the many benefits the campus offers to student parents like herself.

“The program is important for graduate students because we have so much work that is done outside of the classroom,” said Linda, who has utilized the program three times already. “With a child at home, it’s hard to get anything done without some extra help.”

This fall, UC Berkeley became the first public university in the United States to offer both graduate and undergraduate parents access to emergency back-up child care. This service is offered at highly subsidized rates and enables UC Berkeley parents to focus on study sessions, work on academic projects and travel to participate in conferences when their usual caregiving arrangements are unavailable.

“[Before enrolling in the program] it was always stressful to get care since it was hard to coordinate with sitters and because of the cost,” Linda said. She would have to spend nearly $20 per hour for short-notice child care. Through the campus’s new program, her cost dropped to the $4 per hour for in-home care. “With this new program, scheduling [a babysitter] is very easy and child care is extremely affordable.”

Berkeley student parents registered in the current semester are eligible for up to 60 hours per academic year of in-home and/or center-based care for their dependent children (ages six months to 18 years) by professional caregivers vetted by one of the nation’s leading care providers. Student enrollment in the program is on a “first-come, first-served” basis; the pilot program will continue as long as funding lasts.

The program was initiated by the Graduate Division and made possible by funding recommended by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees (CACSSF) — on which both graduate and undergraduate student representatives sit — and a generous donation from the Hutto Patterson Charitable Foundation.

“It is so important that families feel supported,” said Catherine Hutto Gordon of the Foundation and a Cal alumna. “Parents need to continue with their work, their studies, and children need to feel cared about — all with no stress,” she said. “If students can feel that the university is behind them 100 percent, the whole family thrives. …We want the public to know that this institution has a heart and that Cal does everything it can to give their students all they need to focus on their studies.”

Another student, a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy with a six-month-old infant, said, “Graduate students like me have trouble paying for childcare… Half of [my monthly income] goes towards two days of child care per week for my baby so that I can attend lectures and teach sections. That’s difficult enough. Paying for extra care is out of the question. Because the university has started to subsidize back-up care, I am able to have someone watch my baby when I have big deadlines looming. I can better meet my deadlines with a little extra care and don’t have to let the quality of my work slide.”

To date, nearly 300 students have enrolled, roughly two-thirds graduate students and one-third undergrads.  About two-thirds of these student parents are married or partnered; about one-third have two or more children at home.

The Back-up Child Care Program is one of many benefits that UC Berkeley offers its student parents — learn about other campus resources here.