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  Public Employee Press

PEP Nov. 2006
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Day Care at Bellevue

Model for the City
Members’ dream come true

All of the children benefit from the highly trained and caring teachers, like Yolanda Rodriguez.

DC 37 Exec. Dir. Lillian Roberts, DC 1707 Exec. Dir. Raglan George (l.), Local 1549’s Ralph Palladino (r.) and hospital officials cut the ribbon.

Day Care open 24/7/365 for Bellevue workers


The need for day care in New York City is vast. As early as 1971, Bellevue Hospital and its community of caregivers realized that this was one big problem that had a solution. On Sept. 19, the long road to providing full-service, on-site day care for Bellevue employees and the nearby community reached fruition with a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the Bellevue Hospital Child Care Center.

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts told the assembled gathering of politicians, parents and their tiny offspring that this is an issue whose time has arrived. “Bellevue has led the way and provided the model. Now we have to follow it and get the city involved in a plan to set up similar facilities at all our public hospitals.”

“Child care is a necessity for working parents, particularly hospital workers, who are on the job around the clock,” she said. “With a child care facility like the one here at Bellevue, our members and other hospital workers will know that their children are well cared for, so they can they care for the ill and injured.”

A tour through the sparkling center revealed the tender care and thought that went into the planning. Tiny tables and chairs, puppets and puzzles, books and toys, and every kind of educational opportunity await the children who enter its doors. A highly trained staff of caring teachers and administrators watches and guides their every moment.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was quick to voice her support for child care centers throughout the Health and Hospitals Corp. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney recalled herexperiences as a young, working mother facing the void thatexisted in suitable facilities for child care. She ecstatically hailed the Bellevue Center as “the flagship leading the way for what government should be doing.” Maloney noted that she couldn’t think of anything more important than support for working families.

Local 1549 member Alexa Garcia with her son,
Christian, 2.

Mom’s departure brings on the tears.

Teacher Yolanda Rodriguez is there to provide comfort, a bottle, and a hug.

Melvin Bell, president of Bellevue’s Board of Directors, labeled the enterprise “a marvelous labor of love. It took 30 years to realize this dream, many contributors, hard work and extraordinary dedication,” he said. Sarah Maldonado, the executive director of the center, spoke briefly and movingly about the achievement. A nationally recognized expert in child care, Ms. Maldonado was properly introduced as “the heart of Bellevue Day Care!”

The Center’s on-site services can accommodate and assist 300 families a year to get child care service of the highest quality.Local 1407 Executive Board member Franklin Taylor’s granddaughter, Terrayah Grant, 3, is enrolled. “I think it’s great!” said Taylor, a Systems Analyst for the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Taylor’s daughter, Nicole Taylor, sang the praises of the center. “It’s unique in New York City,” she said. “I appreciate the way they interact with my daughter. I didn’t have such great day care for my other two kids.” Before she started at Bellevue, the 3-year-old attended another facility. “Bellevue allows my daughter to express herself,” said Taylor.

Before going to her job as a Patient Care Associate in Belle-vue’s Internal Medicine Clinic at Bellevue Hospital, Taisha Freeman drops her son, Amar Jones, 3, at the center. Its location right in the heart of the hospital makes it very convenient. “I saw a posting about the center in my union newspaper,” said Ms. Freeman, a member of Municipal Hospital Employees Union Local 420. “The program is just great,” she added. “There are so many teachers working with my son.”

Making life easier
Alexa Garcia, a member of Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549, enrolled her son Christian, 2, after co-workers recommended it to her. “He’s adjusted well. They have a good routine and it makes it easier for me to slip out,” said the satisfied mom a short time after he started there.

The mother of two leaves her home in the Bronx at 7 a.m., drops her daughter off at school and takes public transportation to Bellevue. She brings Christian to the center, spends a little time with him, unloads her disposable diapers and other supplies for the day, and is then able to check in at the hospital’s Medical Records Dept. by 9:30 a.m. “So far it’s wonderful!” she said.

The Bellevue Child Care Center had a long journey and overcame many obstacles on its way to becoming a model for emulation citywide. As co-chair of the Bellevue Hospital Child Care Committee, Local 1549 2nd Vice President Ralph Palladino participated in every step with a passionate commitment to the cause.

Local 420 member Taisha Freeman gives son, Amar, a goodbye kiss.

3-year-old Terrayah Grant chows down her Cheerios.

On Sept. 19, he expressed deep satisfaction. “It’s been an unbelievable experience,” he said. “I attribute my involvement to my mother, who was a single parent and worked in the garment industry. I knew that other countries had childcare. During World War II, the government set up child care. These were our models. Now the Bellevue Center shows that it can be done. Mayor Bloomberg is talking about childcare. We’ve heard the speaker of the City Council talking about child care. Our union is behind the push for child care. We can do it!”

Over 25 percent of DC 37’s members have children under 13. The high cost of day care means that the city’s low-paid working people must dedicate a disproportionate part of their income to this essential part of their budgets. Workers can’t give their full attention to the job if they are worrying about what is happening with their children. Many must make difficult choices — between being late or absent from work — and leaving a sick child home alone or with a less-than-desirable child care provider.
DC 37’s participation in the New York Union Child Care Coalition addresses this problem by fighting for funding for vouchers to subsidize day care costs. A key activist on the issue is Moira Dolan, an assistant director of DC 37’s Research and Negotiations Dept. “In coalition with other unions, we’ve lobbied for and won over $20 million in state money to provide child care subsidies for over 2,600 union families,” she pointed out.

Campaigning on many fronts
Dolan estimated that the average subsidy per family was close to $5,000. “This past year alone, over 600 of these families were DC 37 members. In addition, because some members had more than one child receiving the subsidy, over 800 of our members’ children were in better quality child care than they would have been otherwise. That is something to be proud of and to build on!”

In addition to the opening of the Bellevue Center, some promising steps have been taken recently. The Women’s Concerns Committee and the administration at Elmhurst Hospital are working together to develop a child care center. They have already dedicated space and are seeking a provider to set up their day care center.

Another campaign, directed at Albany, is aimed at getting the governor to review all aspects of child care funding, regulation, and access. The needs are all related: to increase funding for child care and early education, to pay workers in the child care field better, and to implement a “quality assurance” rating system so parents can readily see the objective levels of safety and quality to compare facilities.
The Bellevue Hospital Child Care Center has set a high standard by establishing a quality facility that offers parents peace of mind about their children’s welfare while they are in its care. Meeting the huge demand for safe, affordable quality child care is a top priority for working parents.

In the AFL-CIO’s annual “Ask a Working Woman” survey, women list their top legislative goals: 91 percent of all responders cited child care as their number two priority, just after health care.
The demand is growing and the constituency is ready. The model is there. It’s up to us to show the need and demand action. The DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept. is conducting a survey to assess members’ needs of DC 37 members. The goal is to complete the survey by the end of December. A copy of the form is available on the DC 37 Website at www.dc37.net. (PDF)*

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