Monday, February 18th, 2019

Past USM child care removed due to lack in budget

In 2002, asbesto's was discovered in the basement, where the Gorham Child Care program resided. Officials believe is caused no health risk, bbut could have had it not been caught early on. The Child Care was officially closed in the early 2000's after the budget could no longer fund it.
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In 2002, asbesto's was discovered in the basement, where the Gorham Child Care program resided. Officials believe is caused no health risk, bbut could have had it not been caught early on. The Child Care was officially closed in the early 2000's after the budget could no longer fund it.

Posted on February 23, 2016 in Community
By USM Free Press

By Raquel Miller

In February of 2009, USM made the decision to no longer offer its child care program due to the USM’s growing financial crisis, making the USM Child and Family Centers a victim to the first round of budget cuts.  Cutting the program would have saved the university $400,000 dollars annually.  

While cutting the programs saved money, it came at a cost to the students, faculty and families who utilized the program.  In 2009, the USM Child and Family Centers program, with locations on two campuses, was in its 35th year with 88 children enrolled in the program at the time and for the parents the news of the close was jarring.

Many questions and concerns went unanswered, and the elimination of the program affected not only the lives of the families who participated but for the academic programs it helped. It did not serve as a lab school like others around, but associate professor of Psychology, Bruce Thompson, noted in a Free Press article from 2009, that for years he and his students utilized the program for research projects on the cognitive development of young children.  

Opening the university childcare program, with discussion beginning as early as 1971, was an ongoing process that faced a variety of obstacles whether it be funding, location or health hazards.

In 2002, the Gorham childcare building was found to have been releasing asbestos into the air, with parents only being notified after two days–two days that their children spent time in the building.  Asbestos was commonly used in buildings back in the 1970s and breathing in this carcinogenic mineral is dangerous to one’s health.  The University admitted to their mistakes in notifying the parents without a sense of urgency and acknowledged the handling of the situation should have been carried out differently. While the program had dealt with its ups and downs, many parents came together with the notification of the closing, showing how strongly parents believed in and needed the program as a part of their success.  

Childcare is competitive and expensive.  In 2014, the Boston Globe released a map illustrating the average cost of childcare by state. Maine averaged at $9,360 for infant care with a minimal decrease in price for children around four-years-old with the average being $8,320.  Maine falls within the U.S. average for child care but prices can range anywhere from $4,850 to $16,450.  University of Maine Orono child care programs cost around $158 per week for full-time care for infants and toddlers.  

For student-parents and university faculty, affordable, local and accredited child care is difficult to find and expensive to utilize.  Getting your child into a program is often fiercely competitive, with wait-lists up to two years in length.  

In 1982, only a few years after USM’s day care center opened its doors, Lynda Doyle, a mother and student, wrote a letter to the editor discussing how USM’s day care center changed her life as a student.   

“I have gone through a lot of emotional stress.  Until this year, I experienced a sense of quiet guilt about leaving my three year old daughter with a babysitter or a day care center.  This year is the first time in three years that I’ve had a relatively stress-free semester… My daughter is learning how to write her name and more importantly, to interact with other children. To put her in any other daycare center would be a step backward for her. ”  

Balancing work, school, and a social life can be difficult for any student, but can become increasingly more difficult when raising a child.  It’s crucial for universities to offer students with children the ability to pursue an education, whether it be young parents or older ones going back to school.

Heather Monroe, an Administrative Support Specialist in the Office for Student Life, used to work for USM’s child care program before it closed.   

“Childcare was important to the families of the students, faculty, and staff that used our services and is an important part of a commuter students ability to attend school while they parent.  That being said, while I wish we still had the amazing, nationally accredited programs on campus, it is not something that can be reinstated here without a large financial investment by the institution, new space and other expenses related to daily facilities.”

While USM no longer has the means to support a child care program, it presently holds a childcare classroom on the Gorham Campus as a part of USM’s partnership in childcare with Opportunity Alliance.  

In 2009, many parents approached staff and administration stating they would not continue taking classes at USM if the program was eliminated.  Neighboring institutions like SMCC and other University of Maine schools offer childcare for their students, faculty and staff; unfortunately, USM cannot, although, we can only wonder how many prospective and current students balancing an already hectic schedule it could benefit and support.  

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