UC Davis Today: More help for student parents

Mother at a computer with two boys next to her, the younger has his arm around his mom's shoulders

More help for student parents

By Julia Ann Easley

Asking questions and seeking answers about immune systems is what Patricia Castillo does as a doctoral student at UC Davis. But as a single parent of two growing boys, she also has to ask a more personal question: How can her children have the care they need while she’s in the lab or classroom?

UC Davis is helping her and other student parents answer that question with newly expanded opportunities to receive financial assistance for child care and more convenient access to that assistance.

“It makes it so much easier,” said Castillo, who is completing doctoral studies and working as a graduate student researcher as she raises Ben, 11, and Blaeton, 7.  “You can focus on what you need to focus on.”

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi is committed to improving support and services for student parents. So, this fall, the university consolidated information, application and service for its funding programs — once administered by three campus offices — under the care of Human Resources’ Worklife and Wellness office.

And in other changes:

  • one program increased the eligible age for children from 5 years to 12 years
  • two programs expanded the definition of child care to include care provided by family (other than spouses), friends and neighbors as well as after-school, camp and recreational programs
  • graduate and professional students do not have to be academic student employees to receive support

The Child Care Funding Program offers support for undergraduate, graduate and professional student parents; both needs-based and needs-blind assistance; and help with care on campus and in the community. So far, 180 students with 236 children have been awarded nearly $629,000 for the 2013-14 academic year. Applications are accepted quarterly.

Sandy Batchelor of Worklife and Wellness, who works closely with student parents to help them get support, says the university has not previously collected data on how many UC Davis students have eligible dependent children. But, she says, this new program is reaching out to find student parents, let them know what the university offers and invite them to apply.

Providing this kind of support for a world-class education helps transform families’ lives.

Raised amid the blight of South Los Angeles, Castillo wanted a better life for herself and her children. “I saw how much my mother struggled to provide a roof over our head and food,” she said. “I knew education was my ticket out.”

When Castillo started doctoral studies in immunology at UC Davis in 2007, she didn’t know where to turn for help with child care expenses. “In the beginning, there was that question: Will I be able to be in the program and support myself and the kids?”

With some frustration, Castillo found the child care and the financial help she needed to pay for it. But this fall, it became easier — working with just one application and one office.

“I’m very thankful,” she said. “It’s not as stressful.”

It costs Castillo about $3,300 a quarter to have her sons in an after-school program in Davis, and UC Davis covers about 55 percent of her child care expenses. Castillo receives a Graduate Student Child Care Grant of $600 a quarter, for which most graduate and professional students are eligible, and $1,200 a quarter through the Community Based Care Program, which provides up to $900 per child per quarter for undergraduate, graduate and professional students with demonstrated financial need.

Castillo, who expects to submit her dissertation in 2014, plans to work in industry to help make therapeutic drugs to treat diseases and is well on her way to creating a bright future for her family.

“I don’t like giving up,” she said. “I’m a strong-hearted person.”

Patricia Castillo connects with her sons (from left), Blaeton and Ben at their after-school program in Davis. Photo by Greg Urquiaga of Strategic Communications; story by Julia Ann Easley, who covers student life for Strategic Communications

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