The Office of Child Care and Family Resources is an on-campus organization designed specifically to offer services and resources to student parents who attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
These services include parent resources, indirect access to child care services, and financial assistance designed to allow student parents to more comfortably pursue a degree while also providing care for their children. The students include both graduate and undergraduate students at UW-Madison. Among these students, the ages of children range from six weeks to four years old.
“We’re sort of a rarity,.” OCCFR parent resource specialist Barb Douglas told The Daily Cardinal. “There’s not a lot of offices like this across Big 10 campuses, or really a lot of universities, so I feel like I’m fortunate to be here and the students really are fortunate to have what they have for student parent resources.”
According to recent estimates, approximately 22% of university students in the US are parents, making child care an important aspect of the educational experience for a large portion of individuals attending university.
There are currently approximately 150 student families who receive assistance from OCCFR. Surprisingly enough, this number is low in comparison to previous years. According to Douglas, the pandemic has changed the needs of student parents and forced many of them to stay with their children at home.
Douglas explained that the organization is designed to ensure that students with children can effectively pursue their education at UW-Madison while also ensuring that their children receive resources needed for earlier development.
“We invest in high quality child-care so the students don’t have to worry. They can go and do what they need to do,” she said. “Our mission is to serve the neediest families with the youngest children.”
Douglas’ description of the organization’s goals echoes the official mission of the OCCFR, which states that they exist to “promote the academic and professional goals of the University of Wisconsin community through the administration of early education and family support programs.”
To be eligible for OCCFR services, students must meet the income requirements, which is determined based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines, as well as be enrolled either full or part-time in classes on the UW-Madison campus.
OCCFR also helps to provide student parents with resources to locate child care services not directly tied to UW-Madison. Some of these resources include the community-coordinated dData referral database as well as Wisconsin Childcare Star, which are designed to place student parents in contact with trusted childcare workers.
OCCFR additionally assists student parents with applying for grants, including the Child Care Tuition Assistance Program and Child Care Access Means Parents In School, both of which are designed specifically to financially aid student parents.
Douglas explained that the OCCFR is one of only a few organizations designed explicitly to assist student parents in the Big Ten school system and stated that the OCCFR is considered a unique organization by other universities.
“We’re sort of considered a model, so we’re really proud of that,” she added.
Along with the child care and financial services that the OCCFR provides, the organization also hosts events designed to foster a community among student parents on campus. These events give parents an opportunity to meet other individuals in similar situations in order to help establish support networks.
The organization's in-person events have been postponed due to the pandemic, however they are hopeful that they can hold their ‘Lil Bucky Bash’ in person at the Eagle Heights Community Center this August. The event includes a free backpack giveaway for school and pre-school aged children, a visit from Bucky and various outdoor activities such as family yoga, sidewalk chalk art gallery and more.
Ellie Bourdo is the features editor for The Daily Cardinal. Ellie previously served as associate news editor, where she specialized in breaking news and University of Wisconsin-System news reporting. She also works at WisPolitics. Follow Ellie on Twitter at @elliebourdo.