Skip to content Skip to navigation

Supporting families during the COVID-19 pandemic

A message to the campus community was sent from Provost Persis Drell and VP for Human Resources Elizabeth Zacharias providing an update on Stanford's on-site child care operations and information on resources and programs for all families seeking to formalize care arrangements over the coming months.

Dear Stanford community:

With the reduced availability of child care resources, the recent mandate and guidance for K-12 education, and the lack of clear and consistent data on group-care settings for children, many families are deeply concerned regarding their fall situation. Whether it is questioning how to support their children’s engagement in distance learning and provide care for them when they are not online once the school year begins, or grappling with concerns regarding the availability of child care that meets their needs, families are experiencing even greater levels of uncertainty and stress. As an institution, we understand how the lack of available youth services such as in-person school, child care programs, enrichment and afterschool programs impacts our community, and we recognize the pressure of blending work with child care responsibilities in the current caregiving landscape.

While we continue to partner with families and provide resources to navigate this incredibly challenging time, we urge managers and parents to work together to proactively identify alternative work schedules to the greatest extent possible. We also encourage families to creatively consider how to support one another’s care needs. To assist you in this effort, we are writing today to share an update regarding our on-site child care operations for families where this is relevant, as well as to offer some creative ideas, resources and programs for all families to consider in seeking and formalizing care arrangements over the coming months.

Stanford child care operations

For the safety and health of our community, Stanford is taking a measured approach to reopening our on-site child care programs. Our available capacity is impacted by state and Santa Clara County Public Health orders, which establish restrictive staffing patterns. Additional guidance and best practices set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Social Services - Child Care Licensing results in further operational changes to our child care programs. We are also experiencing reduced teacher availability as some are in high-risk populations and others have caregiving duties of their own. Because of these limitations, enrollment is being prioritized and managed in phases to help children transition and ensure availability of space and teacher coverage.

These factors, in addition to our own responsibility for reducing the risk of transmission and exposure to COVID-19, will limit our ability to enroll families at pre-COVID-19 capacities. To date, our centers are functioning at about 25-30% of their pre-COVID levels. We anticipate returning to approximately 50-55% of pre-COVID capacities by September and as teacher availability allows, we will continue to add additional capacity. While it is possible that some of the restrictions may be changed by the governing agencies over the coming months, we do not anticipate returning to our normal operating capacity for at least the coming year. As we invite families back to child care, we have noted that 20-30% of families are declining or deferring care as they consider their own circumstances and we also had the typical departure of our “graduating” preschoolers, both of which create additional availability.

Our first phase of enrollment return focused on members of the community required to return to campus to meet research resumption needs. In August, we will extend additional invitations to previously enrolled families to optimize our available capacity. After all previously enrolled families have been offered an option to return, we will go to the waiting list, utilizing our standard priorities. You can learn more about the enrollment priority process here.

The operational issues outlined above are not unique to Stanford’s on-site child care centers. Rather, child care programs across the country, state, and in our neighborhoods are also managing the limitations placed on their ability to operate as they did prior to COVID-19. In appreciation of these challenges, we offer you some additional resources and support.

Best practices and resources to support families

Even when center-based child care is utilized, it is important to have alternative plans ready to implement as the potential of COVID-19 exposure from children or adults and county closure guidance may disrupt center operations with abrupt notice. The WorkLife Office has prepared resources and alternative care solutions to support families through the pandemic, and offers guidance on how to manage future child care disruptions. In partnership with WorkLife, these alternatives assist families to be resourceful and think creatively about child care during a very uncertain time.

Individuals and supervisors should continue to engage in open conversation about flexible work arrangements (e.g. part-time, work outside of "regular hours", etc.). Together, you should identify creative solutions that enable you to meet the needs of your family while continuing to support your workgroup. If additional accommodations are needed, consult with your supervisor and/or school/unit HR leadership. The WorkLife Office has developed training resources, tools, and tips to assist managers and employees in collaboratively finding successful work arrangements.

We also recognize the challenges of supporting the remote-learning activities of children, and encourage you to coordinate with your supervisor to ensure you have the opportunity to attend all school orientation meetings. Understanding your school’s remote-learning expectations, including how to access available technology support and mental health resources, as well as how best to communicate with teachers, will alleviate some of the concerns.

Other creative solutions may be a necessary this fall, including: 

  • Coordinating a family “bubble” in which parents or primary caregivers support each other’s work schedules.
  • Utilizing nannies, babysitters or tutors that can be shared with family bubbles.
  • Leveraging teenagers that might not be engaged in their regular extracurricular activities to tutor or simply entertain younger children.
  • Collaborating with your school Parent Teacher Association or other parent groups to form a cohort to support home-schooling and/or tutoring.

We appreciate your continued support and contributions while managing full lives. As parents ourselves, we intimately know the challenges that come with raising children, acknowledge that these challenges are only amplified by the pandemic and deeply appreciate your flexibility, resilience and resolve as we continue to navigate this uncertain time together.

With gratitude,

Persis Drell

Elizabeth Zacharias
Vice President for Human Resources