For families, Yale’s expanded childcare offers a lifeline

Amy Holt with her son, Brady, and daughter, Claire
Amy Holt, assistant director of public safety at Yale, with her son, Brady and daughter, Claire. Holt has received support for Yale’s Work-Life and Childcare Office to help her balance work and family during the pandemic. (Photo credit: Andrew Hurley)

Like many parents in the Yale community, Tammy Raccio found herself scrambling to balance job and childcare responsibilities last spring.

Her son, Anthony, then a sixth grader and with special needs, required her help with remote learning. Her husband, Joseph, a site supervisor for a construction company, was reporting to work as usual. Under the circumstances, keeping up with her duties as associate director of Yale’s auditing department was challenging, Raccio said.

My workday was choppy with lots of interruptions,” she said. “My son needed my attention to keep him focused on his assignments. It was extremely difficult to find extended periods of time in which I could concentrate on my work.”

With Anthony entering seventh grade this fall, and facing the same dilemma as before, Raccio sought support from Yale’s Work-Life and Childcare Office, which has enhanced existing childcare resources and introduced new benefits amid the ongoing crisis.

For Raccio, the expanded support has provided welcome relief. She enrolled in the recently added Crisis Care Assist benefit, through which she can receive a $100 reimbursement per day up to 20 days for hiring someone from her personal network — a friend or family member — to watch Anthony at home.

The benefit, which lasts through Dec. 31, has allowed her to devote full days to her job, knowing that someone she knows and trusts is helping her son.

This has made a huge difference for us,” said Raccio, who lives in Wallingford. “I was leery of hiring a babysitter I didn’t know given concerns about the virus, but through the program, I can have a family member watch my son while I dedicate a full day to work.”

Yale Provost Scott Strobel has prioritized expanding childcare support during the COVID-19 crisis. The Work-Life and Childcare Office began offering new and enhanced benefits in early June.

These are challenging times, especially for those with young children,” Strobel said. “We recognize that these challenges will persist as long as public health concerns limit access to schools and childcare facilities. Yale is committed to supporting members of our community and their families. Given the complexity of the situation, no program will fully solve the childcare crisis for everyone's circumstances, but we are hopeful that the programs we have announced will help meet the needs of our community.”

In a community-wide message sent on Aug. 27, Strobel and Senior Vice President for Operations Jack Callahan urged all deans, department chairs, managers, and supervisors to continue to provide flexible work arrangements to faculty, staff, and trainees, especially those who are burdened with childcare responsibilities.

It is not business as usual,” they said.

The Crisis Care Assist benefit, previously limited to 10 days for most participants, was expanded to 20 days for all qualified groups through Dec. 31. All told, the expanded benefit, which also covers elder care, offers faculty, managerial and professional staff, clerical and technical staff, service and maintenance employees, and postdoctoral fellows and associates up to $2,000 in reimbursements for hiring someone from their personal networks to come to their homes and provide emergency backup care.

Students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will qualify for the 20 days of backup care starting Oct. 1. They will be eligible for the 20 days of backup care through Sept. 30, 2021.

In addition to the expanded emergency backup care, the university is providing onsite care for school-aged children who are engaged in distance learning through the The Phyllis Bodel Center, one of Yale’s seven affiliated childcare centers that serve children from infancy through kindergarten. It has created a website to connect families with Yale students looking to work as in-person or virtual tutors and babysitters. It’s providing a range of virtual educational tools parents can use to enrich and inspire their homebound children. It has also launched the Office Accord Virtual Parenting Community, a digital platform that Yale parents can access to connect, communicate, and share resources with each other.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the varied challenges families face, making it important to provide a range of options and services, said Susan Abramson, manager of the Work-Life and Childcare Office.

For many families, this period has been a daily struggle,” Abramson said. “We hope to provide parents a variety of resources and support to help them balance their work and family obligations under stressful circumstances.”

Amy Holt, assistant director of public safety, has used the Crisis Care Assist program to hire a neighbor to watch her son, Brady, and daughter, Claire — fourth and fifth graders, respectively. It’s come in handy when Holt and her husband, who works for a pharmaceutical company, are tied up with work.

It’s been extremely helpful,” said Holt, who lives in Fairfield. “It’s helped us to arrange childcare with a neighbor we know well when we’ve been in a pinch. Having that backup option is important.”

Holt noted that she has friends facing similar challenges with childcare whose employers aren’t providing resources equivalent to Yale’s.

It felt nice to work for an employer who cares about its employees,” she said. “Yale has recognized the situation and tried to be helpful. I appreciate it.”

Holt and Raccio praised Abramson for her responsiveness and help in registering with the program, which is administered through Bright Horizons, a private vendor that Yale partners with to provide back-up childcare services.

Susan is awesome,” Raccio said. “She’s accessible, responsive, and very helpful.”

After setting up an account through Bright Horizons, Raccio received her first $100 reimbursement within a week through direct deposit. She has used five days and plans to parcel out the remaining 15 over the course of the next few months.

It’s a great benefit,” she said.

Vice President for Human Resources Janet Lindner emailed the Yale community on Sept. 14 urging parents and legal guradians with childen up to 18 years old to complete a survey, which closed Sept. 24, that will provide a deeper understanding of their needs.

For more information on the full range of enhanced support, visit Yale’s COVID-19 childcare resources website or register for an upcoming online information session.

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