Kathy White, director of child care services at UCI, is expecting 36 babies this September – to be delivered to the campus’s new infant toddler care center. That’s just seven months after she and her staff greeted 14 tiny charges at apartments converted for child care in Verano Place. White is assisting the campus’s efforts to tackle a critical child care shortage by expanding capacity as swiftly as possible.
“Usually there’s a lag between the launch of centers,” White says. “It’s a lot of new babies in a short amount of time.”
Given the short gestation period between expansions, it’s no wonder White’s been a bit frazzled lately as she juggles her many responsibilities – overseeing six child care sites (soon to be seven) as well as 40-plus full-time staff members and 70 to 80 student employees. Still, like a mom accustomed to multi-tasking, White is all smiles as she shows off the renovated Verano Place apartments, ushering visitors through immaculate kitchens, changing tables stocked with diapers, tidy cribs and a sunny play room. The reason for her good humor is simple: “I love babies,” she says.
Since White was hired as an infant teacher at UCI in 1980, she has seen the need for child care explode.
“The shortage isn’t just at UCI. It’s the care needed most across this country,” she says. “Babies take a lot of work by experienced and educated caregivers.”
To address the campus’s immediate needs, the executive vice chancellor’s office has moved quickly to open the two infant toddler additions, bringing the number enrolled in UCI child care programs to about 300. The programs serve children of students, faculty and staff; they include the Infant Toddler Center and new Infant Toddler Annex, Children’s Center, Verano Place Preschool, Early Childhood Education Center and Extended Day Center. University Montessori School of Irvine, a private vendor, serves another 217 children.
White has worked at UCI long enough to see infants she once cared for grow up; some have even revisited her as undergraduates on campus.
“Having children return to see us, sometimes 10 or 20 years later, or having a parent say, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without your services,’ – the rewards of working here are many,” she says.