Student parents find relief with free childcare

Parenting+students+are+able+to+focus+on+their+schoolwork+and+still+spend+quality+time+with+their+children+thanks+to+the+Child+Care+Means+Parents+in+School+grant.

Cal U Women's Center

Parenting students are able to focus on their schoolwork and still spend quality time with their children thanks to the Child Care Means Parents in School grant.

By Hannah Wyman, California University of Pennsylvania

For twenty-five-year-old Christina Holstine, remote learning this fall semester means juggling virtual classes for two degrees, chemistry and biology pre-medicine, along with working and raising her 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old-son.  

Holstine admits that being a working mom while in school is at times challenging. 

“There are days where I don’t get enough schoolwork done, especially with being online this semester, and days where I feel like I didn’t spend enough time with my kids, and most days my house looks like a bomb went off because I have to choose between scrubbing the floors or playing with my kids or doing schoolwork in my downtime,” Holstine said. “It’s definitely a balancing act for sure.” 

Students like Holstine are just who the Cal U Women’s Center has in mind as they work to provide free childcare to parenting students. Through the Child Care Access Means Parents in School federal grant, the university collaborates with The Village of the First Presbyterian Church, a private, non-profit early childcare center located in the heart of California, to provide services free of charge to parents pursuing a college degree. 

“Education is the ultimate equalizer and Cal U’s participation in the CCAMPIS program will help both students and their young children,” Women’s Center director Nancy Skobel said. “Not only will immediate childcare needs be met, but long-term family finances and child school readiness will also be positively affected.” 

This is the fourth, and final, year of the CCAMPIS grant which helps fund “Hand-in-Hand,” the local daycare program in partnership with Cal U. Cherie Sears, president of The Village, recognizes the need parents in school have for childcare and believes “Hand-in-Hand” may be the solution.  

“Our mission is to provide no-cost, high-quality childcare and preschool for single parent students who are attending school full time. That’s why when this grant became available, we were a perfect partner for Cal U,” Sears said. 

There are currently five children in the program and more slots are available, said Sears. 

Now, more than ever, as both parents and their children find themselves stuck at home, balancing school with work and the demands of childcare becomes tricky.  

“Another struggle is my work schedule being until 10 p.m., having to get my kids to bed, staying up super late to get my schoolwork done and then be up early the next day to start all over again,” Holstine said. 

According to Sears, being able to provide relief to parenting students allows for parents to focus more on their schoolwork and classes. 

“Then the time that they are with their children becomes more of a quality time rather than ‘I’m with you all day, but I’ve got this work to do, I’ve got to study for this test, I’ve got to write this paper,’” Sears said. “[Young kids] need attention…I’m sure it’s got to be a struggle at home for so many of those parents.” 

Holstine cites the free childcare offered as “the sole reason I am able to attend school.” 

“I can drop my son off, go to school and focus, all while knowing that he is in safe, loving hands and in a great learning environment,” she said. I cannot express how grateful and thankful I am for The Village and Cal U for creating that partnership.” 

Students who are eligible include low-income parents, military-connected parents, and single parents. Other qualifications include being enrolled in a degree program, having or are eligible for a Pell Grant, maintaining a 2.5 GPA per semester.  

Apply by contacting Donna Hoak ([email protected]) for application information. Questions can be directed to Nancy Skobel ([email protected]). 

This story was originally published on Cal Times on September 26, 2020.