‘I couldn’t count on it’: Faculty express concerns about waitlist for University-provided daycare


Image via University Child Development Center webpage

An educator reads to a child enrolled in the UCDC child care program.

By James Paul, Staff Writer

Emily Snyder had her child in 2020 and when she was looking into daycare, she said she didn’t view the University Center for Developmental Care as an option for her family given how long the waitlists are. 

“I’ve never met anyone who’s successfully enrolled their child in the program,” Snyder, an academic adviser in Dietrich, said. “It’s labeled as a benefit of working at the University, but in order to use it, you have to put yourself on the waitlist before your child is even born or even conceived.” 

The UCDC is the University-provided daycare option available to the children of faculty, staff and students aged six weeks to five years. According to Nichole Dwyer, the director of communications for the Office of Human Resources, the length of the waitlist increased in 2020 to between four and six years long due to “closures during the pandemic and issues with staffing.” 

Currently, there are more than 600 faculty, staff and students on the waitlist for the center, which has a total enrollment of 109 and a capacity of 114. Dwyer said the capacity is expected to increase in January.  

“The University is working to provide additional childcare options in and around Oakland, as well as expanding its partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, to assist families with childcare resources,” Dwyer said. 

Snyder said she never enrolled on the waitlist, although she is considering enrolling in case she plans on getting pregnant in the coming years. 

“I’m considering putting my unborn second child on the waitlist,” Snyder said. “We aren’t planning to have a baby anytime soon, but we might have a baby in three years.”

Tyler Bickford, who chairs the faculty union bargaining committee, said the union is “hoping to win some improvements” regarding UCDC accessibility in its contract negotiations.

“Childcare especially is something that’s important to a lot of faculty,” Bickford said. “It can be challenging, right, space is an issue and staffing is an issue but we think we can make some progress on that and hopefully improve things for people who need it.” 

Bickford said the bargaining committee is currently negotiating changes to the UCDC with the university and he hopes it will be included in a final contract, although he didn’t specify what the changes are.  

“We’re bargaining the whole contract,” Bickford said, “We’re talking with the administration about this issue and many others and we expect to have improvements in the final contract.”

When asked about changes to the UCDC being included in contract negotiations, an unnamed University spokesperson said “the union has made proposals relating to a variety of subjects. The University will continue to review each proposal.”

Though several people have taken issue with the waitlist, Hillary Demmon, a teaching professor of film and media studies, who successfully enrolled her child, said the service provided by the UCDC made the wait worth it.

After four years on the list, Demmon said she and her husband were able to enroll their 17-month-old son into the UCDC. Despite the wait, Demmon said she is “very happy” with the service that the center provides. 

“I think the education he’s getting there’s good,” Demmon said. “He eats well, and he’s got people who care about him. When we go pick him up, he’s always perched on somebody’s lap reading a book. It’s a really great place. I love it.” 

Demmon said she entered the UCDC waitlist with her husband before they were planning to have a child and before she taught at Pitt. Other faculty members, she said, had warned her about the long wait times.

“They said, ‘if you think you might have a kid, get on the waitlist, even if you’re not sure,’” Demmon said. “We were on the waitlist before I started working here. My husband teaches at Pitt as well and he was teaching here before me, which is how we were able to get on the list.” 

Dwyer said there’s a separate waitlist for faculty, staff and students that are interested in UCDC enrollment but have not yet conceived. When a family is on the unconceived list and later has conceived, UCDC asks them to update their waitlist application which puts their child in position on the active waitlist.

“Waitlisted families are contacted each January to ensure that they still need a space and to remain on the list,” Dwyer said. “Unfortunately, the waitlist is complicated by several factors, and it is not a simple chronological process.” 

Melinda Ciccocioppo, a teaching assistant professor of psychology and chair of the faculty union’s communication and action team, enrolled on the University Center for Developmental Care waitlist as a graduate student at Pitt in 2008. She said it took four years to get a spot.

“I got a letter in the mail when my son was 2 years old telling me that he had a spot,” Ciccocioppo said. ”By that point, I obviously had already found other arrangements. I think what my experience highlights is just the fact that this has been a problem for a very long time.” 

Ciccocioppo said she had her second child in 2012 when she was teaching at the University part-time. She said she decided not to re-enroll on the waitlist because of her past experiences and the cost. 

“Given my experience as a graduate student, I just knew that I couldn’t count on it,” Ciccocioppo said. “And it literally cost more money than I was making, so it didn’t make any sense. I just had a friend watching my kids who gave me a substantial discount and she would basically just watch them for the time that I was teaching.” 

Ciccocioppo said the length of the UCDC waitlist is an issue that “disproportionately affects women.” She said she hopes the bargaining committee is “able to work with the administration and find a creative solution.”

“I think this should be something that everyone is invested in solving because from the standpoint of the institution as a whole we benefit from having faculty members who are able to do their jobs right and feel comfortable and secure that their kids are being well taken care of,” Ciccocioppo said. “It’s not good for our productivity.”  

In response to faculty criticisms of the UCDC waitlist, Dwyer said the increased length of the waitlist is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted childcare providers nationwide. 

“During the pandemic, UCDC wasn’t allowing any visitors into the building, including tours, due to stricter CDC regulations for childcare centers,” Dwyer said. “However, to mitigate that issue, they held virtual meetings with prospective families. Over the past few months, they have restarted in-person tours, one family at a time, if they were offered a space for enrollment. They are slowly progressing to allow more visitors and tours.” 

Correction: This article was updated to clarify that there is not a separate waitlist for faculty, staff and students. It was also updated to clarify that a family should update their waitlist application when they conceive to be placed on the active waitlist, not contact UCDC directly. The Pitt News regrets these errors.