A new babysitter directory has been created with the aim of addressing the needs of U of M students and faculty who must bring children to class because they have no other childcare options.
U of M family resources launched the UM babysitter directory on Nov. 1. The directory is a resource to help parents and guardians at the university find student babysitters.
Francene Perehinec, the U of M family resource co-ordinator under the vice-provost (academic), formed the directory to support parents and guardians who are part of the university community in their work and studies. The project took around eight months to develop between Perehinec and her colleague Melissa Melo, the family centre co-ordinator at the Rady college of medicine.
Only two weeks after the program launched, there were 200 requests for access to the directory from parents and guardians, around 65 per cent of which are students. Currently, there are over 70 students listed as babysitters, and services are available to those with infants, toddlers and children under the age of 12.
The directory is meant to give parents access to a list of available student babysitters and their information. Once parents have accessed the list, it is up to them which sitter they proceed with.
University staff and students, particularly international students, have faced challenges in finding childcare, Perehinec said.
“It affects people’s ability to attend work, study for exams, even attend classes.”
Perehinec said faculty and students provided feedback indicating that a lack of available childcare support put them “in a predicament” because they had to bring their kids to class. Perehinec said she was inspired by the University of Toronto family care office’s program, and knew a similar program could be brought to the U of M.
“We were pleasantly surprised that we had an influx of applicants wanting to join the directory,” she said.
Perehinec hopes that the directory will help students and staff achieve their goals during their time at the university.
“The original intent for this was to help specifically the parents who have been bringing their children to classes,” she said, “and to reduce workplace barriers for staff too by providing childcare options for them.”
Perehinec mentioned that the babysitter directory can help parents that have late night work meetings or conferences.
Students interested in becoming babysitters can contact the centre via email or view the posting on UMConnect. Perehinec emphasized that students should be aware and prepared with documents and references when parents call them with potential jobs.