To help Johns Hopkins University employees who are reporting significant challenges balancing work with caregiving responsibilities at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended routines and strained resources, the university is expanding its services for finding care. It also continues to offer several financial support options for families in need.
In an email message to faculty and staff, Heidi Conway, vice president for human resources, said that during listening sessions that President Ron Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar held this summer with junior faculty, and in numerous discussions with staff, leadership has heard significant concerns about work-life balance.
"Caregiving—whether of children or others—emerged as a consistent source of personal and professional stress," Conway said. "The decision by many school systems to start the year in a virtual mode exacerbates the challenges for parents, and the heightened risk of COVID-19 for older adults presents new dilemmas for those who are responsible for elder care."
In response to requests for more assistance, the university has enhanced its existing membership with the Care@Work service provided by Care.com. Employees can continue to post caregiving jobs and perform detailed searches for providers to care for infants, school-aged children, or adults with health needs, and now they can get one-on-one help with their search. Care specialists will conduct an assessment, help find caregivers that match the family's requirements, and discuss options.
Care@Work is also a source of subsidized backup child care or elder care, up to 20 days per year, when regular arrangements are unavailable. Given the possibility that schools or care facilities could shut down and reopen unpredictably, Conway said that faculty and staff should be aware of this benefit if they are concerned about meeting their work schedules.
In addition, Maryland Family Network's LOCATE service continues to offer personalized child care resources and referrals for families seeking center-based child care in Maryland.
Conway said that many faculty and staff members are interested in ways to connect Hopkins affiliates seeking caregiving services with each other. Employees can use a keyword search for "Hopkins" on the Care@Work platform to narrow their search to caregivers specifically interested in working with the university community. The university also has started providing affiliates with access to Komae, a co-op-style parent network platform on which Hopkins families can find each other to pool resources for caregiving.
For families facing unexpected expenses for caregiving, Johns Hopkins–sponsored child care vouchers provide up to $5,000 per year for any legal child care, either in a home or child care center. Eligibility and maximum benefits are determined by the family's adjusted gross income. The university also has established a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund that will provide up to $1,000 to eligible employees to help with expenses related to the pandemic, including caregiving. Funds in that program are limited but still available.
Looking ahead, university leadership is exploring options to provide additional types of caregiving support, such as tutoring and other assistance for children engaged in distance learning and increased financial help for employees struggling to afford unexpected care costs. Conway said in her message: "We are intensively focused on this effort and will keep you updated on our progress."
Faculty and staff will find additional information on the Family and Caregiving Programs page of the university's HR website.
Also, family and caregiving programs information sessions have been scheduled on two days: Friday, Aug. 21, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., and Wednesday, Aug. 26, from 2 to 3 p.m. To register, go to the Child Care page of the HR website. Those sessions will cover how to use Komae Cooperative Care and Care@Work's offerings to have a successful school year.
Employees who have questions can contact the JHU Benefits Service Center at 410-516-2000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And all employees are encouraged to take advantage of emotional support resources and daily life assistance provided by the Johns Hopkins mySupport program by calling 443-997-7000.