The university and health system are set to open the first, and much anticipated, child care center for the use of Hopkins faculty, staff and students. Called the Johns Hopkins Family Center, the 18,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in August in the former Church Home Medical Office Building, located at the corner of Broadway and Fairmont Avenue, just south of the JHMI campus.
The center, which is available to affiliates from all divisions, will include space for 156 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. Bright Horizons Family Solutions, an international child care provider, will manage and run the center.
Christine White, an assistant dean at the School of Medicine, who both formed and chaired a university-wide day-care advisory committee, says a child care center at Hopkins has been a long time coming. The first "serious" effort to establish a center began in 1983, White says, and up until now its road to realization had been filled with disappointment.
"There have been many, many committees on this issue that go back as far as I can remember," says White, who has been at Hopkins since 1977. "In general, new employees are shocked when they come here and find that nothing is available in terms of on-site child care."
The current effort began nearly four years ago, coinciding with the arrival of Edward Miller as dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
"It wasn't until Dr. Miller became dean and CEO that this matter was given top priority," White says. "Those of us here thought perhaps he could and would make a decision on this issue as a sort of one voice. And he did. Thanks to Dr. Miller and [JHH/JHHS President] Ron Peterson, the dream for a day-care center at Hopkins has finally been realized."
The proposal for a child care center was approved in early 2000, just months prior to the announcement that Church Hospital would be closing its facilities. White says the availability of the Church space, which the university and health system now lease long-term, moved up the timetable for the center's creation.
Interior demolition of the building's first two floors, which will house the Johns Hopkins Family Center, began last week. The first floor will be dedicated to infants up to 2 years of age; the second is designated for preschoolers. Preliminary plans call for an enclosed, age-segmented playground located on the side of the property. The architect retained for the project is ET&A Consulting Inc. White says the center's design and construction has been fast-tracked, and "everyone is working toward an August opening date."
White says the decision to outsource the management of the facility was made early in the process. A number of proposals were submitted and considered; Bright Horizons' stood out, White says, due to the company's proven track record and "innovative programs."
"Clearly, when we did our due diligence and saw what Bright Horizons brought to the table, it was just no contest as to who we wanted to run the center," White says.
Bright Horizons currently operates more than 300 child care centers worldwide, including facilities at Duke University, George Washington University and Johnson & Johnson headquarters. Last year the Massachusetts-based firm earned a spot on Fortune magazine's annual list of the country's 100 best companies to work for.
Carole Edson, regional manager for Bright Horizons Family Solutions, says the design and function of the child care center will cater to the specific needs of Hopkins employees.
"We believe this new center should reflect the Hopkins community, not our perception of what a child care center should be like," says Edson, noting that each client's center is unique.
The Hopkins facility will feature age-appropriate learning, a Bright Horizons hallmark.
Baltimore resident Nancy Kovacs, who has been named the center's director, says the teachers at the Johns Hopkins Family Center will be very hands-on.
"For instance, the infant's world is on the floor, so that is where the caregivers will be with the children, talking and singing to them, rewarding them and playing hand-eye coordination games," Kovacs says. "Infants will be in their cribs only when they are sleeping and for naps; at all other times, their care is highly intensive."
For children ages 3 to 5, Bright Horizons has designed a learning program called The World at Their Fingertips. The four major components of the program are Language Works, designed to develop emerging literacy skills; Math Counts, which emphasizes pre-math skills such as sorting and measurement; Projections, for extended learning if a child expresses an interest in a particular subject, whether it's houses or polar bears; and Science Rocks, which seeks to develop scientific inquiry skills, such as coming up with an hypothesis and testing it out.
Edson says caregiving at the center is based on the notion that children are most comfortable and able to learn when they are in a secure and respectful environment. To ensure quality care, Bright Horizons hires only "high-quality teachers trained in child development." The center's adult-to-child ratio is 1:3 for infants and toddlers and 1:6 for preschoolers.
"Our teachers and caregivers will develop a relationship with each child. They learn to understand the child's cues, symbols and communications," Edson says. "In observing the child, he or she can plan appropriately for their learning program and communicate with the parent what they are learning and what is happening in terms of their development."
The building's interior will reflect its primary occupants.
"I think the environment, as you look at it as an adult, will be very child-sized," Edson says. "The chairs will be little, the toilets small. The center will clearly be designed with children in mind in regard to colors, shades and textures."
The center's hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Regular care is considered 10 hours per day. Bright Horizons has an "open door" policy regarding visitation, Edson says, as the company encourages parents to stop by the center as often as they wish.
Tuition costs for regular care begin at $250 per week for infants and toddlers and $200 per week for preschoolers. White says Hopkins is looking into offering scholarships to help offset the costs, but the discussions are only preliminary.
The deadline for initial registration is April 2. Capacity for the center is 24 infants (6 weeks to 16 months), 27 toddlers (16 to 24 months), 24 2-year-olds (24 to 36 months) and 80 preschoolers. In the event that an age group is oversubscribed, a lottery will be held. Applicants not selected will be placed on a rolling wait list, which is based on when care is needed and the child's age. For example, if a wait-listed infant is reaching toddler age, that child will be moved to the top of the toddler wait list.
"It is a very active and dynamic process," says Edson, adding that preference is given to siblings when slots become available.
A series of information sessions where interested parents can obtain specifics about the Johns Hopkins Family Center were just held at JHMI. Upcoming sessions at Homewood will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on March 6 in the Great Hall of Levering Union, and from 1 to 2 p.m. on March 9 in the Sherwood Room of Levering. Representatives from Bright Horizons and Hopkins will be at each session to give parents the details they need to decide if the center is right for them.