LifeWork Strategies, a department of Adventist HealthCare located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, supports parents in finding Early Care and Education options as part of its comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
While many employers offer EAPs, assistance in finding child care is not always part of the range of services provided. “We recognize how important the early years are to childhood development, so we place a priority on helping parents find affordable, reliable, high-quality child care,” says Kathleen Crowley, LCSW, clinical supervisor for the LifeWork Strategies EAP.
Access to EAP services is free and confidential, and 14% of employees served by the program utilize child care assistance. In addition to serving the large regional internal workforce at Adventist HealthCare, this EAP serves more than 20,000 employees nationally.
To get started, parents provide information about the ages of their children, preferred location of care, types of preferred programming and credentials, any special needs, any religious preferences, and cost limits. Based on these details, the EAP provides parents with an overview of care options and a listing of programs that meet their criteria as closely as possible, with an emphasis on high-quality programs. The EAP also provides tools and resources to help parents choose high-quality care and instruction on how to access inspection reports.
“We work closely with parents to address their unique situations,” Crowley says. “This includes supporting parents who are trying to find convenient, high-quality care for multiple children.”
For instance, an Adventist HealthCare employee with a 4-year-old wanted to enroll the child in a different child care program to help better prepare him for success in kindergarten. This parent also had a toddler and was trying to find a program that would work for both children. The EAP identified 10 child care programs that enrolled children of both ages and that were convenient to the employee’s daily commute, as well as being near the elementary school that the older child would be attending the following year.
Employee education is key for employers who want to provide similar ECE supports to working parents through an EAP. “The biggest challenge for us has making sure employees know these resources are available and that they know how to access EAP services,” Crowley says. “In addition to sharing information with new employees during orientation, we promote awareness of our services through webinars and workshops, at monthly meetings, and in employee newsletters.”