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Stanford's Philosophy for On-site Child Care Programs

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In alignment with Stanford’s vision to build a world-class early childhood education program inspired by evidence-based, child-centered pedagogy, the WorkLife Office helps Stanford families connect with high-quality care for their children. The WorkLife Office partners with community-based child care operators to drive and align with the university’s mission, values and philosophy on child care.

Our Mission

The WorkLife Office supports the Stanford community by cultivating world-class early education and child care programs. Our programs offer families peace of mind that their children are cared for by highly trained early childhood professionals. We continually improve our programs by reviewing the latest research and leveraging best practices from other education programs. We strive to develop a holistic view of the field to provide the Stanford community with the best education and care for their families. 

Our Values

  • Excellence in education: We value evidence-based, experiential learning and prepare young people to be lifelong learners, problem solvers and future leaders. Our educators are engaged, culturally sensitive and knowledgeable about current research in child development. They offer activities that engage curiosity, promote investigation and build meaningful parent partnerships.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: We treat all people with respect. We embrace diverse educational environments and varied approaches to teaching that have a common thread of high-quality, early childhood programming. We value diversity and differences, and we are fully committed to diverse representation in our community. We use an Anti-Bias Curriculum to engage children in an active and respectful exploration of differences in thinking, cultures and lifestyles.
  • Safety and well-being: We maintain the highest health and safety standards for all children in our programs. We facilitate a culture of well-being and encourage exercise and nutrition as daily practices.
  • Family engagement: We strive to support families to be positive influencers and advocates for children, families and the community.

Our Philosophy

Stanford’s child care program is based on the philosophy that children learn best through play. We believe children have an innate sense of curiosity that drives their interest to understand the world and their place within it. Play allows children to identify, explore, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. Research shows that children who engage in high-quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development and behavior regulation, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning.

Our educational approach is inspired by developmental theories and teachings of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Magda Gerber, Howard Gardner, John Dewey and Loris Malaguzzi. Our guiding principles include building strong teacher-child relationships and providing a play-based learning environment that encourages developmentally appropriate, inclusive and creative experiences. 

How we Operate 

Stanford partners with three community-based child care operators that serve families with children between zero and five years-old at our six on-campus child care centers. The operators are independent organizations known for their expertise in delivering quality care and education for young children. 

We support Stanford families by providing options in care schedules and multiple locations spread across campus. We foster diverse, inclusive parent/community relationships and seek to make a positive difference in the lives of children, their families and the community.

Our Commitment to Affordability and Access

For over 50 years, Stanford has worked to expand access to child care by creating partnerships with community-based child care operators. Stanford has built a solid early education program, becoming one of the largest national child care providers among higher-education institutions and Bay Area employers.

Stanford provides operators with rent-free facilities and subsidized utility costs so that tuition can be directly applied to the quality of care. By using sustainable business models and keeping up with market-rate economics,  Stanford is able to provide the highest quality of child care, at or below market rate average costs, while keeping pace with competitive teacher salaries.  

The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased operational costs and exacerbated the already existing national teacher shortage. Throughout the pandemic, we remained committed to providing high-quality child care. We continue to financially support the child care programs to ensure a successful reopening, in alignment with COVID-19 protocol. We work closely with our child care operators to monitor the situation and provide the best care possible during this time.

The WorkLife Office and campus partners offer the following financial assistance programs to help families gain access to care:

For Students and Postdocs

  • Child Care Assistance Grant (CCAG): New as of March 1, 2021, this program provides postdocs with up to $5,000 per year to assist with child care expenses. 
  • Postdoc Family Grant Program: In addition to the Child Care Assistance Grant Program, the Family Grant offers postdocs with families up to $5,000 per year for living expenses that span beyond child care, including food, transportation and medical expenses.

  • Graduate Student Family Grant Program: This program offers graduate students up to $20,000 to cover child-related expenses such as child care, healthcare, insurance and rent.

  • Tuition Reduction Program: The Tuition Reduction Program offers all Stanford students and postdocs a five percent reduction in child care tuition costs, for each child enrolled. This program is available directly from the child care operator upon enrolling a child in an on-campus child care center.

  • Tuition Assistance Program: The Tuition Assistance Program exists in addition to the Tuition Reduction Program. Income-eligible student and postdoc families can receive additional tuition support from the Tuition Assistance Program. This program is available directly from the child care operator upon enrolling a child in an on-campus child care center.

For Staff and Faculty (benefits-eligible)

For Faculty (benefits-eligible)

For all University affiliates

  • Child Care Application Fee Reduction: Effective September 1, 2021, the on-site child care application fee for university affiliates has been reduced from $50 to $15 per child, per center. This university-designated funding provides a significant reduction in application fees for families, while also allowing our child care operators to meet their business needs. 

Child Care Program FAQ

Who operates the campus child care centers?

Stanford partners with three child care operators to manage the six campus child care centers. The operators are independent organizations known for their expertise in delivering quality care and education for young children. 

How does Stanford work with child care operators?

Stanford child care operators are independent organizations known for their expertise in delivering quality care and education for young children. Our continued partnership with the child care operators is based on the shared understanding of Stanford’s vision, culture and goals. We work closely with our operators to track progress, adapt plans and measure success. 

How does Stanford choose which child care operators to partner with?

We partner with child care operators that align with Stanford’s philosophy of learning, development and family engagement.  Child care operators are long-standing, trusted experts in child care, known for raising children to be confident learners who care for the world.