From Where We Are

Safe child care options are becoming scarce in the world of COVID-19

USC graduate students share their struggles with caring for their children while attending classes in the midst of a pandemic.

A photo of a day care room full of children sitting around a table alongside their caregiver.

As USC graduate student parents seek to navigate their education, many struggle in managing their professional lives and their personal lives. Children are a priority, as parents put time and energy into caring for their families even during their studies. Thus, daycares and parental support programs are now essential to their lifestyle.

Jenna Lubet is a grad student at USC’s Marshall School of Business. She and her husband have two children. Holding her baby in her arms, she explained that the past year and a half has been particularly difficult in terms of finding a daycare system that respected the peril of the pandemic.

Jenna Lubet: What we were terrified of is our toddler Philomena, being in daycare, bringing COVID home with an infant.

We were like: alright, we don’t really trust you to enforce your sick policies because you don’t seem to be enforcing them. Like my, you know, our daughter’s still coming home sick multiple times. You’re not doing any due diligence to check your own workers. Like you’re not, you’re not requiring them to get tested. And so we just don’t trust that things are going to be OK.

Even so, several students feel that there needs to be an even stronger support system from the university for student parents. One solution Jenna Lubet proposes is allowing parents to have the option of studying remotely.

Lubet: I think students, USC students that are parents, should always, always, always have an option to attend a class remotely. And that is just more about like inclusivity and equitability more than anything else.

Others believe that there should be a centralized place for graduate student parents to ask questions, as the current support system has done little to aid them considering their circumstances. Brandon McFarlin is a fifth year PhD candidate at the Keck School of Medicine Campus. He started a Facebook group for graduate student parents.

Brandon McFarlin: There’s no localized area that the registered parents can go and be like, OK: here’s my question about this, here’s the answer. Here’s my question about this, here’s the answer. And like all these different, there’s not one office that can answer all these questions like what I can or can’t do or give me a list of what hospitals are within our insurance for, for for people to give birth at. Like, give me a list of pediatricians that are okay, like just simple things like that that become so burdensome. And then like when people are pregnant on top of trying to figure all this out, I mean, it’s awful.

As their lives become increasingly busy with education, work, and growing families, graduate student parents at USC face the daunting task of balancing it all. For the sake of their academic and parental endeavors, they look to the university to improve their programs and aid these young parents in this stage of their lives. For Annenberg Media, I’m Sam Reno.