A new study will begin the planning process for expansion of Child Development and Family Services on the PSU campus. Helen Gordon Child Development Center Director, Ellie Justice, announced an initiative funded by the PSU Student Building Committee to develop plans to expand capacity on campus to serve more young children and their families. Plans will include space for an additional 150 children in full and part-time child care somewhere on or near the PSU campus. This will add to PSU’s capacity for full and part-time child care programming and add space for additional family support services. Currently, two facilities are located on campus: the Children’s Center in Smith Memorial Student Union supports 60 families each term with full and part-time child care. Another 200 are enrolled at the Helen Gordon Child Development Center, on SW 12th Avenue. Other services to families are offered at PSU through the office of Student Parent Services and include counseling, resource and referral for on and off campus services and programs, financial assistance for off-campus child care, advocacy, and emergency loan assistance.
“PSU’s capacity to serve children and support their student and faculty/staff parents has not kept pace with the dramatic increase in the University’s enrollment over the past decade,” says Director Ellie Justice. “The appointed task force and designated funds will help us make some significant headway in addressing the well-documented needs of our community.”
Child care at PSU originated in 1971 after a committed group of student mothers staged a sit-in in the university president’s office. The university identified a space and opened a small child care program on campus. In 1974, the full-day program relocated to the current location of Helen Gordon Child Development Center, which was recently renovated and expanded. There was still a need, however, for a part-time facility for students who did not need full-time care. Students were so passionate about the need for child care that they voted to increase their student fees to pay for a new campus center. The university opened the ASPSU Children’s Center in March, 1999. Student fees fund both programs to support on-campus child care for PSU students and to make child care costs more affordable for student-parent families.
With steadily increasing campus enrollment and high numbers of students with families, there is a growing need for family support and family friendly spaces on campus. A large percentage of PSU students are nontraditional with an average age of 27.5 and require support services for families that include child care. A recent campus child care survey revealed that 62 percent of respondents indicated that they would use campus child care if space was available. In the same study, 52 percent stated that they are not able to enroll in as many classes as they need due to lack of available child care. Over 500 families are currently on the waiting list for child care on the PSU campus. There is an urgent call to address the articulated and documented need for increased services on-campus at an institutional level.
The strategic planning and architectural design process will begin in fall 2011 with the assembly of a task force appointed by President Wim Wiewel. A presidential task force on child development and family support was appointed and charged to determine the needs of the campus community and develop a strategic plan that addresses the current and future needs. The specific charge for the task force will be to respond to the data gathered from the 2009 PSU Campus Child care Survey and to develop a strategic plan to address campus needs. This will enable Child Development and Family Services and other campus leaders to align their efforts with long term goals and to implement phases of the plan as opportunities become available. The development of the strategic plan will coincide with the 2011-2012 funding allocated for program expansion.