“Urgent: Your help is needed,” reads the Friends of the Child and Family Research Center website. The University of Nevada, Reno’s Child and Family Research Center provides early childcare to children of faculty, staff, students and community members and is set to undergo changes, as university faculty are looking to find a private party to expand the child care facility.
“The Child and Family Research Center is located on campus. Most children are in the Fleischmann building and some are in the education building,” said Provost Kevin R. Carman. “We have been limited to serving 100 children for as long as anyone can remember and during that time the university has gotten bigger. In the years since I’ve been here, we have been looking at ways we can expand child care offerings to members of the UNR community. We’ve struggled with coming up with any good solutions, so that led us to consider the possibility of looking to see if a private party would be interested in expanding child care offerings.”
Eva Essa is a retired foundation professor of Human Development and Family Studies at UNR, where she taught for 41 years. Essa served 16 years as the director of the CFRC. She had her children in the CFRC on campus and found herself concerned with the future of the child care program when she read the university’s Request for Qualification that read the university was looking at, “Replacing and Expanding University Child Care Capacity.”
Essa wrote an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal to try and spread the word about the changes to the community. In addition to writing her article, Essa created a campaign called Friends of the CFRC and wrote a petition that has over 900 signatures.
“The university’s response to my article was ‘we have no intentions of getting rid of the CFRC,’ but I don’t know what they envision happening. They’re bringing someone else in to do it and the RFQ had a sentence that said, ‘existing child care facilities will be replaced by the new program and the physical facilities will be redesigned,’” Essa said.
Carman said despite the fact that the university’s RFQ says, “Existing Child Care Facilities will be replaced as a result of this project,” the university does not plan on eliminating the CFRC.
Essa said that for a number of years when she was a faculty member at the CFRC, and even more recently, the group has made numerous requests to be able to fundraise to build a bigger building on campus to fulfill the growing need for child care.
A committee was created made up of people from the HDFS department at UNR, members of the CFRC and community members. The committee came up with a report explaining that their primary recommendation to the university was to allow the CFRC to fundraise in order to build a bigger building.
“We knew there was a bigger need on campus, it wasn’t that we were unwilling to meet the need, but [our requests were] always denied,” Essa said.
Carman said the university has had to set priorities, and their priorities in the last few years have been academic buildings.
“Our priority emphasis over the past few years has been building facilities that have been expanding our educational and research capacity and serving the students broadly on our university,” Carman said. “That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t welcome a donor to support a child care facility. We have not had any donors come forward to express that interest. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be willing to have a donor support a child care facility, but it does mean that when we go to foundations we do set priorities.”
The CFRC was the first child care program in Nevada to be nationally accredited and it has been continuously accredited since the 1980s. Three of the CFRC’s facilities have received five out of five stars from the state, while throughout Nevada only six programs have received a five-star rating.
“All of those indicate that it is a really high-quality program, but more so I’ve been so impressed with the comments on our website that speak of this program being more than any other early child program, more than what they’ve experienced on campus, this was a really nurturing place for children and for students,” Essa said. “It tells me that this is a well-loved program that is meaningful to a lot of people and if it is dismantled, no matter what they say, it will not ever come back and that is what I want to have not happen. I want to preserve something that should be preserved.”
In addition to the changes to the CFRC, the university recently sold their Nelson Building, a building in downtown Reno that housed several programs including the CFRC’s Early Head Start Program.
The university sold the Nelson Building as part of a development initiative in downtown Reno. However, the university has not yet found another building to house the Early Head Start Program or the other programs currently housed in the Nelson Building.
“What I am told is that they are very confident that they will be able to find a location for it,” Carman said. “We are not planning on a scenario where we do not have a location for them because we are very confident we will and we are totally committed to finding a place for it.”
The sale of the building will be final on May 15, and after that, the university has 120 days to vacate the building. They are hopeful they will find a place by then.
Essa is still not satisfied with the university’s response to her and other community member’s inquiries and concerns.
“We are not a priority,” Essa said. “It doesn’t feel good. It tells me that they’re interested only in what they’re interested in and they are not paying attention to this being an extraordinary program.”