Students and postdocs with children: How can UCSF help?

Graduate Division

All good things in life come with a price. Children are not exception.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child from birth to 18 years old. Such data gives a lot of food for thought to those who are considering starting a family, particularly those balancing a busy professional life or rigorous degree program.

Despite all the odds, some students and postdocs at UCSF decide to spice up already turbulent years of training with joys and challenges of child-raising. As a mother myself, I was curious about how UCSF supports its trainees with children.  UCSF Family Services oversees several services for UCSF parents, most of which aim at helping families to find affordable and high-quality child care (A piece of somewhat bitter advice—make your choice between affordable and high-quality, because you can rarely have both.)

Locating reliable people with whom you would entrust your child for 8–10 hours a day, five days a week is not a small feat, and most of the parents find this process nerve-racking​. To get the information firsthand, I met with Suzie Kirrane, who is a family services manager at Campus Life Services. “If I had only one minute to talk to postdocs and students, I would want them to know about the Child Care Referral Service, the new Care Advantage/Sittercity program, and the Graduate Division Child Care Grant program. The campus is working to meet a variety of child care needs, recognizing the high demand,” Kirrane said.

1) UCSF Child Care Resource and Referral Service

You would be surprised how difficult it can be to find child care providers in your area. In brief, parents have three options: leaving your children with a baby sitter, taking them to a licensed family child care (care is provided in the house of a caregiver) or enrolling them in a commercial, private or nonprofit child care centers.

By law, most types of out-of-home child care providers have to be licensed, and the option you choose depends on your personal preferences. However, just because the caregivers are licensed doesn't mean they are easy to locate. One would hope that you could find them on Yelp or Google, but in reality many licensed, family child care homes do not even have a website. 

That's where the UCSF Child Care Referral Service comes in handy. You simply e-mail them your child's age, start date and any geographical/financial preferences, and in a couple of days you will receive a list of various child care options that you can then screen and evaluate according to your needs.

2) Bright Horizons Care Advantage/Sittercity

If you choose to leave your child with a babysitter or if you need emergency backup care, UCSF provides you with a free access to Sittercity, which is an online database of pre-screened sitters and other types of home help (regular subscription is $140/year). You can also use this service if you are looking for a reliable caregiver for an elder family member—or you can even search for a pet sitter. In addition to serving postdocs, this program was expanded to serve graduate students in September, and it has since been used by students at least 110 times.

3) Student child care subsidies

Graduate students might be eligible to receive financial assistance to cover reasonable child care costs if they can prove that they have a financial need and are either single or have a partner who is fully employed, thus is unable to take care of the child.

In general, UCSF’s graduate division does a good job of caring for its Ph.D. students with children. Apart from the child care grants, it provides that Ph.D. students may take up to 10 weeks of paid parental leave for childbirth, the adoption of a child or the placement of a foster child under their care. These students continue to receive their current level of support during the 10 weeks of paid parental leave, regardless of the fund source. In contrast, some other UC campuses, such as UC Berkeley and UCLA, secure only six weeks of paid parental leave. 

If you want to learn more, check out This is a great starting point to learn about UCSF and community resources, including information on planning dependent care leave, parent education events, family events and more. You can also join the Family Services’ e-newsletter to receive monthly news and services updates.