A New Dependent Care Resource and Referral Program for Faculty/Staff

Penn now has two separate but related programs that assist employees with the care of family members-the longstanding faculty/staff assistance program that is now called the Penn-Friends Employee Assistance Program, and a new Dependent Care Resource and Referral Program.

The dependent care program is an outgrowth of child care assistance programs developed in the early 1970's. At that time, women were entering the workforce in large numbers and highlighting the need for support with work and family challenges. Over time, it became apparent that there was need for assistance with a larger range of work and family demands. Also over time, the assistance these programs provided began to be appreciated for their business impact. They have been found to improve morale, increase productivity and commitment, and reduce absenteeism and turnover. While we are pleased to be offering these services for faculty and staff because it is a good thing to do, we understand that these services are a valid management tool and can benefit the University as a whole. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the two programs.

I. What exactly are dependent care resource and referral services?

They are sources of information and referral to programs and services for a range of dependent care issues, from pre-natal to elder care. The program we have selected is called Life- Balance. It is a service of Ceridian Performance Partners, a human services organization headquartered in Minneapolis, with its dependent care resource and referral services located in Blue Bell. This service offers:
  • Prenatal Guidance (e.g., questions about smoothly managing the return to work)
  • Pre-School Care Assistance (e.g., information/referrals to day care, family day care homes, nanny services, etc.
  • Child Development Information (e.g., information on the Terrible Twos, or Potty Training)
  • School Age and Education Issues (e.g., learning disabilities concerns, selecting between private and public school options)
  • Teen Issues (e.g., discerning the difference between typical teen behavior and indicators of serious problems
  • College Bound Assistance (e.g., options, considerations, financing)
  • Dependent Adult and Elder Care Issues (for ex, dealing with an ill adult relative, finding services for a parent)*

This program is available for all full and part-time faculty and staff and their immediate family members. It is provided through:

a. Free, confidential telephone consultation by masters-level consultants and experts accessed through a toll-free numer 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week at 1-888-203-6847.

b. The LifeBalance program of referrals to programs and services in the community most appropriate to your situation through:

i. a nationwide referral network (if you need services in another community, for example, elder care services, they will have one of their subcontracted agencies in the community call you with the names of programs that meet your needs)

ii. a database of national resources (for example, a national adoption program that may have the kind of services you need for a special arrangement) and

iii. educational resource lists (for example, college information, or information on local or regional private schools)

c. The LifeBalance program also provides each caller written materials by experts on the issues with which you are dealing.

d. The LifeBalance program includes a lending library of videos, tapes and books on the full range of dependent care issues.

e. LifeBalance staff maintain a data base filled with information about contacts at Penn and other organizations with relationships to Penn, to refer to for issues outside their scope.

f. The LifeBalance program includes worksite workshops on a large range of dependent care topics. We can have as many free workshops as we would like, if we can guarantee 15 in attendance. Therefore, we encourage you to arrange for some customized workshops for your areas with plans to assure at least 15 attend. For example, include a LifeBalance workshop as part of an office program, or survey your staff for interest in a particular topic and offer it in your area, with encouragement to participate. Elder care and teen issues are particularly popular for these types of customized programs. The QOWL office can help arrange these for you.

II. How does LifeBalance differ from PENN-Friends' EAP program we currently provide?

They work tangentially. Where one stops, the other picks up, and vice versa. PENN-Friends EAP provides up to six free counseling sessions with trained therapists for dealing with troubling personal life challenges. These can include family issues (many mentioned above) as well as interpersonal conflicts and challenges, dealing with stress/coping with change, general anxiety/depression, substance abuse. This differs from the practical information provided by LifeBal-ance services.

Let's say your sweet baby-faced daughter has suddenly, at age 13, gone from being a bright, bubbly, talkative child to a sullen, silent and withdrawn teenager. She's taken to dressing in black and wearing her hair rather strangely. She only talks to her friends (and constantly). You fight all the time. Your strategies:

1. You may call LifeBalance for information on typical teen behavior and child development information. You may also receive information on the warning signs of more serious problems such as drug use or problems in school (which can encourage anti-social behavior). This may be all you need.

2. However, perhaps this change has caused severe tension in the house. You can't sleep at night and are afraid it is affecting your relationship with your spouse. In addition to contacting LifeBalance, you may want to call the EAP and go in to discuss your concerns, find ways to let go of some of your trepidation over the child's new style of dress, and learn new ways of communicating with this new person in your home. You may even bring your teen to a counseling session with you, for facilitated discussion, with the help of the trained counselor. With over 450 locations (including one at Penn) you should find a convenient location for you and your teenager.

This is just one example of the way the programs differ and relate. Both fit into the QOWL agenda through the Worklife Balance and Health Promotion initiatives.
* As the population ages, we face more and more elder care issues. 40% of Penn's population is over 45 years of age, indicating that a large number of us are dealing with elder care issues. And they are equally if not more complicated than child care issues.--M.K.


--Marilyn Kraut, Quality of Worklife

Program Coordinator, Human Resources

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 1, July 14, 1998