Dependent Care Plan Aids Thousands
A two-year-old effort to help employees solve child- and elder-care problems has exceeded its goals, with 156 companies raising $27 million to create dependent-care programs, according to a report released early today.
The initiative, the American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care, was launched in September, 1992, led by 11 blue-chip companies.
While 137 companies were expected to participate, 156 actually did, said Work-Family Directions Inc., a Boston-based consulting group. They invested $27 million, compared to an expected $25.4 million, and the number of projects they funded rose from an estimated 300 to 355.
In all, the collaboration created or improved 19,141 spaces for the care of young children, school-age children or older adults. More than 200,000 people have directly benefited from the programs, including 13,000 family members of investors’ employees.
The idea behind the effort is “that working together we can accomplish what none of us can afford to do alone,” the report said.
It was also announced that four new companies will help lead the effort into its second, as yet unspecified, phase: Hewlett-Packard Co., Deloitte & Touche, Nynex Corp. and Texaco Inc. They join such corporate heavy hitters as International Business Machines Corp., Xerox Corp. and American Express Co.
“It’s a good way to address a serious issue - the quality and availability of quality dependent care,” said Susan Moriconi, work-life manager at Hewlett-Packard, which will be directly involved in dependent care for the first time.
The effort by often competing companies to improve dependent care reflects the growing role of women in the labor force and the absence of government aid for working parents.
Programs under the effort range from training for care providers and in-home programs for the elderly, to the development and expansion of child-care facilities and school vacation programs.
Many of the programs are only just getting started and eventually will touch many more people, said Mary Kay Leonard, of Work-Family Directions, which is helping to set up the programs that are then run by outside contractors.
“The collaboration has demonstrated in a vivid way the interdependence between business interests, employee needs and communities’ dependent care systems,” Leonard said.
Investment in child-care centers made up 28 percent of the projects, family child care 18 percent, school-age care 44 percent and elder care 10 percent.
“The projects have had a far-reaching impact,” said Wendy Starr, manager of lifecycle programs at Xerox. “They help employees be more productive and help business meet its needs.”
Jim Wall, director of human resources for Deloitte & Touche, said the accounting firm realized there was no way it could provide sufficient dependent care alone.
“The collaboration is a very pragmatic response to what we were being told by our employees,” said Wall. Deloitte & Touche studies showed the firm needed to focus on providing a better balance between work and family life, he said.
Under the collaborative effort, each corporation decides in which communities it wants to act and in what way. New centers or programs are designed to be financially self-sufficient after the initial investment.
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