Dear Editor-in-Chief Gaines-Emory and Managing Editor Agresta,
It was with deep sorrow and great consternation that I learned of the upcoming closure of the Child and Family Center within the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Long Beach.
As a former parent of a child enrolled at the CFC, I was shocked to learn that the administration plans to abruptly close the only child care center on campus dedicated to serving the families of faculty and staff at CSULB. The CFC closure is expected to last at least 13-16 months while the campus renovates the CFC with a one-time $12 million budget allocation that CHHS was awarded by the Office of the Chancellor of the California State University system in 2019.
Although campus employees had previously been assured that the CFC would be temporarily relocated during renovation, thus allowing continuous child care that permits faculty and staff to continue their teaching, advising, counseling, coaching and administrative work uninterrupted, the administration unexpectedly announced in January that the CFC would instead close for at least 13-16 months after the spring term.
This shocking announcement has left CFC parents scrambling to try and secure child care by the summer, even though local child care centers are already at capacity with years-long waiting lists and hiring a private nanny remains prohibitively expensive for the majority of campus employees. Many of my colleagues with children at the CFC are considering other child care options (e.g., unpaid leave, delayed “tenure clock,” etc.) that would cause significant disruption to their contractual duties at the university.
The administration’s decision not to relocate the CFC during renovation is particularly confusing since campus officials previously relocated the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center (dedicated to serving students) to the Pointe in the Pyramid during reconstruction in 2017.
Campus administrators have also informed us that the extended closure of the CFC will result in job loss for two of the five CFC teachers and “re-deployment” of the remaining three CFC teachers to unknown positions within the university.
This poor treatment of long-time CFC teachers is heartbreaking to us parents, given the health and safety sacrifices these teachers made as essential, front-line workers caring for our young children long before COVID vaccines were available for that age group so that we could return to our work at the university teaching, advising, counseling and coaching students. We parents remain indebted to the CFC teachers and feel the university should value and appreciate the teachers’ contributions and sacrifices.
On a personal note, having access to high-quality child care at the CFC allowed me to fully engage and focus on my clinical work with students at Counseling and Psychological Services, helping students with everything from a “broken heart” to managing significant mental health issues, including risk of suicide. Access to high-quality child care on campus allows employees to fulfill their contractual duties.
Without campus child care, faculty and staff parents must curtail their work with students to drive 20-30 minutes in the opposite direction of the university to drop off and pick up their children, take extended lunch breaks to administer non-prescription medication to their children, or miss weeks of work at a time when children fall ill to multiple rounds of Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, pink eye, lice, measles or some other childhood ailment at off-campus child care centers where low levels of staffing do not permit frequent sanitation of toys and adherence to other recommended health and safety measures.
I am heartbroken that current and incoming parents will not have the same university support to fulfill their contractual duties while ensuring their children are safe and loved with the amazing CFC teachers. And I am deeply disturbed that two of the five CFC teachers will lose their jobs in a matter of months, given the health and safety sacrifices these teachers made as front-line workers caring for our young children long before COVID vaccines were available. We parents remain indebted to the CFC teachers and feel the university should value and appreciate the teacher’s contributions and sacrifices.
I will add that the unexpected closure of the CFC is a gender equity and a basic needs issue, often with disproportionate impact on communities of color and other historically marginalized communities. Monthly tuition at one of the other three NAEYC-accredited child care centers in Long Beach can cost as much as a month’s worth of rent or a mortgage payment, and hiring a private nanny is easily triple the cost, and that’s only if you hire a nanny “under the table” to save money, which runs the risk of significant tax penalties.
To advocate for these gender equity, basic needs, and social justice issues, parents and caregivers at the university have generated a petition calling for relocation of the CFC during reconstruction to preserve access to campus child care and retain all five CFC teachers. Three campus unions, multiple academic departments and campus organizations have endorsed this petition, along with hundreds of faculty and staff at CSULB.
It is my hope that a university that prides itself on “building an equitable and empowering culture” and remaining a “student-ready university” will continue to provide faculty and staff parents with the campus child care resources needed to serve and support students at CSULB.
Dr. Kirstyn Chun, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Disclaimer: All of the opinions stated by Dr. Kirstyn Chun are her own and not necessarily representative of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).