Campus child care facilities allow student parents to focus on education

The Orchard Court Apartments, located near OSU campus on 35th and Orchard, offers 107 units with one to three bedrooms. 70 percent of current residents are international students with families, and 80 percent are graduate students. 

Lizzy Wiegers

Family Resource Center helps build community among students with children.

Oregon State University in Corvallis is home to over 24,000 students, some of whom have children. In fall 2017 on the Corvallis campus, 420 students applied for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and claimed dependents that were presumably children, according to Kristi King, student family coordinator at the OSU Family Resource Center. In January 2017, there were 260 international students with families, some with children and some without, King added. In light of this, the university offers multiple resources dedicated to providing students and faculty with the services they might need to care for their children, while still focusing on their studies and work.

“We want students to come to the table who they are, as individuals, and if that means they have children then we want them to be a student parent and not feel like those two parts of their life have to be separate,” King said.

Some students are worried about identifying as a parent, which could make them seem less dedicated to their studies or work, according to King. It is the goal of the FRC to make those with dependent care needs on campus feel like they have the tools they need to succeed. This helps the university reach its goals of student retention and graduation, along with retaining employees, King added.

“At the FRC child care assistance is offered, so if students and employees are paying for child care they can apply to get help paying for it,” King said. “It’s need-based, and if they qualify then some amount of money is awarded to them.”

A portion of student fees goes towards financial child care assistance for students, according to King, but the reach of the FRC goes beyond financial help. The FRC also offers drop-in child care at Our Little Village located in Dixon Recreation Center and The Valley Library. This comes at no cost to students, and they will care for children ages six months to 10 years for up to three hours per day, King added.

“There’s student staff that work there and take care of the children so parents can study in the library, meet with a group for a project, work out at Dixon, meet with a professor, whatever they need to do on campus,” King said. “If they use the library center they do have to stay at the library, but if they drop off at Dixon they can go wherever they need to on campus.”

According to Emma Jackola, an employee at OLV, there are currently about 17 paid staff working at the library location. This location does not get as much traffic as the Dixon one and their busiest times are Mondays and Saturdays. The library OLV is open MondaysWednesdays from 2:30-9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-7 p.m. The Dixon location is open at those same times and is also open on Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“My favorite part about working here is playing with the kids, and meeting new families that come in,” Jackola said.

Other child care centers on campus include Beaver Beginnings, which is run by Kindercare and located across from Tebeau Hall on Adams Street, and the newly opened Azalea House located on Madison Avenue.

Besides child care and funding child care assistance, the FRC offers programs throughout the year for student parents such as a toy drive during the holiday season, according to King. This program anonymously partners students with an individual or department on campus, allowing them to make requests for what they need or want for their children. There are also monthly events called Beaver Family Connections, featuring parenting workshops centered on various topics related to raising children at different ages.

“We do those about once a month for an hour, and anyone on campus is welcome to come and participate and hear about a topic of interest, or just connect with other parents,” King said.

A new program the FRC offers in partnership with Office of Work Life is Back After Baby at OSU, according to King. This half day get-together occurs once a term and allows new parents who are returning to school or work to connect with each other, and learn about all that is offered to them by the university that will help them manage being a student and/or working parent.

“We also advocate for families on campus, we are involved in policies and procedures on campus that might impact families, students or employees with dependents,” King said.

A big change the FRC has helped create on campus is increasing the number of lactation rooms, according to King. Right now around 30 exist and can be used by students, faculty and campus visitors. They function as a relaxing space mothers can use to nurse or pump in, King added.

“I’ve seen the number of lactation rooms increase because of the work we do, now every new building that comes on campus, or any building that is renovated has to have a lactation room,” King said.

The FRC is not the only organization offering resources to student parents. According to Jennifer Viña, director of marketing and communications for University Housing and Dining Services, UHDS offers housing for students with families at Orchard Court near a main bus stop on Orchard Ave. There are 107 units with one, two or three bedrooms each. Currently, 70 percent of the residents are international students with families, and 80 percent are graduate students, Viña added. There are indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a community kitchen and a gathering hall for families.

“The Family Housing Association provides families opportunities to gather together, sponsor programs that benefit OC residents and advocates on behalf of student families. Activities include reading circles for children, an International Mothers Group, Thanksgiving potluck, pumpkin patch trips, international potlucks and a community garden,” Viña said via email.

All of these resources offered to parents help make campus a welcoming space for student parents and faculty parents.

“For students being able to provide free child care for them, and child care assistance is really important,” King said. “ We want them to be successful at OSU as students and parents, because at the end of the day that’s going to help them be able to better care for and support their family as well.”

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