Academic success for students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who are parents of young children may become a little easier, thanks to renewal of the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program.

IUP has received $605,244 from the Department of Education to continue the program for the next four years (2021 through 2025).  CCAMPIS, authorized by the Higher Education Act, is designed to help low-income student-parents stay in school and graduate. This program provides up to 40 hours of childcare (including before and after-school care) at nationally accredited childcare centers, covering up to 60 to 90 percent of childcare costs.

To be eligible, student parents must be enrolled in at least six credits of study, be Pell Grant eligible or with an annual family income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline. The program is open to students enrolled in undergraduate courses or in master’s coursework.

The program also provides mentoring, including review of the academic progress, and coaching to parents. The program team helps participants to connect with university and community resources and also works with student-parents to monitor their child’s development. Student-parents also attend workshops that support parenting.

Dr. Kalani Palmer, associate professor in Professional Studies in Education, is the project director of CCAMPIS at IUP. This is the second round of four-year funding for the program at IUP under her direction – she secured the grant for 2017 to 2021. Prior to 2017, IUP hosted the program from 2008 through 2012.  

“This program is focused on student persistence and graduation and helping student-parents focus on their academic success,” Dr. Palmer said. “There are programs that exist that help with childcare costs, but often, there are waiting lists for those programs, and those programs have work requirements, so it can be very difficult to go to school full time and work 20 hours; the CCAMPIS program doesn’t have that work requirement.

As of the 2019-2020 academic year, there were 356 students with children at IUP: 224 in the graduate program and 132 enrolled in undergraduate coursework. A total of 38 student-parents received CCAMPIS funding during the first four years of the program under Palmer’s direction.

“This program is designed to provide parents the option to fully participate in their education without worrying about secondary jobs and the quality of the care being provided to their children,” she said.

In addition to providing funding for student-parents for quality childcare and academic support and parenting workshops and programming, the grant also provides funding to help childcare centers become nationally accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This association is the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education.

The accreditation includes 10 standards of excellence for early childhood education that involve children, teachers, family and community partners, and program administration. According to NAEYC officials, programs that meet these accreditation standards are recognized for providing a safe and healthy environment for children, and having teachers that are well trained, have access to excellent teaching materials, and work with a curriculum that is appropriately challenging and developmentally sound for young children.

Currently, there is one site in Indiana County that holds NAEYC accreditation: Indiana County Child Day Care (Indi Kids), which includes the childcare center on the IUP campus. The CCAMPIS project is working with a center in Homer City to help them pursue national accreditation, including helping with the accreditation application fees and providing a consultant, Dr. Sarah Brown, faculty in Professional Studies in Education, to help to support the application process.

“Not only are IUP faculty and staff looking for quality care for their children, but people in the community are also in need of childcare, and many prefer to be at a center that meets this national accreditation standard,” Palmer said. “Expanding the number of sites that are nationally accredited is good for everyone in the community, especially the children receiving care.”

Currently, there are openings in the program for toddlers and older children at the Indiana County sites; infant spaces are expected to open up in January.

However, student-parents who qualify for the program, including students who live outside of the region and who are enrolled in on-line programs may use any nationally accredited center in the state.

In addition to helping student-parents, the program also employs IUP students to assist with administrative tasks, data collection, mentoring student-parents, and delivering the parent workshops. Parent workshops have ranged from mental wellness to how to communicate with your child’s teacher to workshops on dental health. The CCAMPIS grant also provides CPR training to parents through the American Red Cross.

“Interviews with our student-parents have also helped us to gain insight into the issues facing parents with children,” Palmer said. “During this grant cycle, we want to continue our work to create a more welcoming environment for parents on campus. For example, thanks to Dr. Lara Luetkehans, former dean of the College of Education and Communications, we have a new lactation space in Davis Hall.

“Our team also is looking at what types of materials could be added to the student orientation welcome packet for student-parents,” she said.

Student-parents recognize that the program has been critical to their success and persistence. Comments from past participants include: “CCAMPIS helps us achieve our goal of continuing our education;” “The program is great. It’s not just the financial support but the support of the staff in this program, just to know you have someone there for you;” “CCAMPIS gave me the opportunity to go to school;” “I’m grateful this program exists.”

Palmer knows, firsthand, how important the program is to student-parents; she was part of a program similar to CCAMPIS while completing her undergraduate studies at Carlow University.

“It was extremely helpful to me as a student-parent, and I am personally very interested in helping student-parents be successful in their own academic journey,” she said.

Applications for student-parents are posted on the IUP website on the Human Development, Fashion and Interior Design webpage.