Penn State Assumes Management of Child Care Center at Hort Woods

Child Care Center at Hort Woods
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Acting on the recommendation of the Child Care Advisory Committee, University officials have elected to manage the two child care centers on the University Park campus in-house, bringing 47-staff positions at the Child Care Center at Hort Woods under the direction of Penn State when the center’s current management contract expires in June 2016.

The decision is the culmination of nearly two years of exploration to identify an effective and financially responsible management model for Penn State’s two University Park child care centers, the Child Care Center at Horts Woods and the Bennett Family Center. 

“The University will continue to work to assure that high-quality child care is available to attract and retain the most highly qualified faculty, staff and students,” said Susan M. Basso, vice president for Human Resources, and Child Care Advisory Committee member.

The Child Care Advisory Committee explored three management options, including a mixed model and a total outsource model, before choosing the total in-house model, according to Holley Benjamin, director of Early Child Care Programs and Services at Penn State.

“The committee gathered perspectives from stakeholders in order to weigh the impact of an in-house management decision on various units, and assessed the financial implications associated with moving operations in-house,” said Benjamin. “The majority of stakeholders perceived an overall positive impact with a decision to operate the centers in-house. We also found it to be more cost effective to do so.”

Benjamin and the committee will continue to explore strategies to constrain costs and reduce the overall subsidy the University provides to both centers. Increased enrollment in some classrooms will begin right away and an increase in child care tuition is being contemplated for 2016-2017.

The Child Care Center at Hort Woods serves up to 170 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years in a 21,500-square-foot facility on the corner of Park Avenue and Allen Road, and is currently managed by Bright Horizons, formerly Hildebrandt Learning Centers, until June 30, 2016. The Bennett Family Center, which serves children ages 6 weeks to 6 years at its North University Drive location, is operated by Penn State. Both the Bennett Family Center and Child Care Center at Hort Woods are open year-round.

When the process to identify a management model for the two centers began, parents expressed concern over the ability of the Hort Woods management firm – currently Bright Horizons, formerly Hildebrandt Learning Centers – to keep salaries and benefits competitive in order to retain teachers.

The Child Care Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and students from across the Commonwealth, is collecting information from the remaining seven outsourced child care centers – including child care centers at Harrisburg, Behrend, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hershey, Altoona, Fayette and the Daybridge Child Care Center in Innovation Park at University Park – to provide a better understanding of staff pay and benefits, including paid-time off, prep-time, child care discounts and educational incentives. Those factors were identified by the committee as essential to recruiting and retaining qualified early educators in an outsourced model.

A firm and speedy decision on the future management of both the Child Care Center at Hort Woods and the Bennett Family Center was a key finding in the 2014 Presidential Task Force Report on Child Care. At that time, a decision also was made placing the Office of Human Resources in charge of child care programs, with the hiring of a director of Early Child Care Programs and Services. Benjamin, who was hired into this role in January 2015, chairs the University’s Child Care Advisory Committee, and staff will be hired in her office to support an infrastructure for in-house management of the two centers by the University. 

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