Monday, July 10, 2017

Susan Koch: Cox Children’s Center a campus and community asset

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2017.

Every week in the United States, an estimated 15 million children younger than age five spend significant time in child care while their parents work or attend school. 

Finding high-quality and affordable child care is an ongoing challenge for working parents. At the same time, child care often presents a barrier to attending college for the approximately one in four college students who have dependent children. 

Since 1970, when the first classes were held at the new campus, the University of Illinois at Springfield has offered full-time on-campus child care at the Cox Children’s Center — a resource much valued by UIS students, faculty, staff, alumni and community clients who utilize the Center. 

According to Stacey Gilmore, Director of the Center since 2003, the primary mission of Cox Children’s Center is “to provide high quality early education and care in a safe, secure nurturing environment.” 

The Center also serves as a laboratory and practicum site for UIS students with professional aspirations for careers in early childhood education. 

Enrollment at Cox each year is typically 50-55 children starting as young as six weeks old. A program for school-aged children increases enrollment to about 70 children during the summer months. 

The Center is proud to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), considered the mark of high quality for early childhood programs. It is the only day care within 50 miles of Springfield that is accredited for infant care. The Center has also received the Gold Circle Quality Designation, the highest rating possible, from ExcelRate Illinois, the state’s new quality rating and improvement system for early learning providers. 

“The thing I like best is how much they have developed from a learning perspective; Cox is really a school where the children are constantly learning and developing skills that will prepare them for kindergarten.” Riaz Tejani is a professor in Legal Studies at UIS whose children, 4 and 6 years old, have been enrolled at Cox for the past two years since the family’s arrival in Springfield. “We enrolled our children at Cox partly on the advice of faculty colleagues who extolled the Center’s caring Director and teachers as well as the exclusive accreditation ratings,” he says. “The campus location has been a huge asset, providing our children access to many UIS resources like children’s programming at the Sangamon Auditorium performing arts center, the campus/community garden, and even the colonnade fountain — which doubles as a splash pad during summer months.” 

Though serving UIS students, faculty and staff is the Center’s first priority, community clients are also served on a space-available basis. UIS alum Nichole Dorsey, whose son is 2½, is one of those community clients. “I am so grateful I can go to work with ease knowing my son is experiencing great care,” says Nichole, who worked at the Center for two years when she was an undergraduate. “I honestly felt like I had won the lottery when a spot became available at Cox for him.” 

Read the entire column online.