Priority Child Care Placement for Duke Employees

More than 700 Duke-affiliated infants, toddlers enrolled in local facilities

This is the playground of Children's Campus at Southpoint, one of about 40 child care facilities that belong to Duke's Child Care Partnership. Facilities in the Partnership offer priority placement to Duke families. Courtesy of Children's Campus at South

Throughout a long adoption process and long work hours, Duke pediatrician Denis Diaz knew he had a place where his 3-year-old daughter would be safe and cared for while he was at work.

He enrolled his daughter at the Children's Campus at Southpoint, a daycare in Durham. The facility belongs to the Duke Child Care Partnership, a list of nearly 40 local day care centers that offer priority placement to children of Duke faculty, staff and graduate students.

"When you're a professional and have to be at work, it's almost painful to leave your child," Diaz said. "They spend so much time away, and it's just so nice to know they're safe, in a great learning environment, playing with other kids and doing what kids need to do."

Duke's Child Care Partnership began in 2003 to meet a growing demand for child care for Duke parents. The Partnership currently has 429 Duke-affiliated children enrolled at off-site daycare centers. Some of the centers offer tuition discounts and waived registration fees to Duke families.

In addition to the off-site centers, Duke has two on-site child care facilities managed by third-party providers that are exclusively for Duke-affiliated children: the Duke Children's Campus and The Little School at Duke. The Little School at Duke, which opened in 2012, more than doubled the number of on-site spaces for children of Duke faculty, staff and graduate students. The two centers currently have a total of 300 children enrolled.

"One thing that still remains constant for us is trying to meet that need and provide the resources," said Denise Evans, executive director of Duke's Staff and Labor Relations and Staff and Family Programs. "It's important to us that as Duke parents and as staff, you can leave your child in a center that you feel is a good center, and there's less worry during the day."

The centers in the child care partnership agree to maintain a four- or five-star license and be in good standing with the state of North Carolina and the Child Care Services Association. Duke also regularly monitors the centers to ensure standards are maintained.

Another member of the Duke Child Care Partnership is KIN, which has two daycare locations close to East Campus and serves a total of 34 children. The daycare teaches independence, conflict-solving and positive social interaction.

Elena Turner, a biology research associate at Duke, remembers attending KIN when she was a child. She took care of a rabbit that belonged to the classroom.

The second generation of the Turner family, Elena's 2-year-old daughter, is now enrolled at KIN.

"Obviously a lot has changed. There are different teachers, a different curriculum, the layout of the building has changed since I was there as a kid," Turner said. "But the basic philosophy is pretty much the same. It's a much more exploratory and low-pressure approach to education."

Staff members at The Little School know that for parents, the curriculum and programs are an important consideration when selecting a center. The Little School at Duke coordinates nature walks and gardening days. Two chefs make braised short ribs and homemade focaccia with hummus. The children take field trips to the Nasher Museum of Art and Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

"We create community," said Jennifer Dock, founder and co-owner of The Little School. "Part of a university is that it can be somewhat transient and hard for people, and we're a place where parents with young children can meet each other and be part of a community."