A shortage of openings and a long waitlist at the Dartmouth College Child Care Center prompted the Board of Trustees to grant funds for the expansion of the center during their meeting last weekend.
About 135 children aged six weeks to six years are waiting for a spot at the College's child care facility, reflecting a shortage of spaces at day care facilities throughout the Upper Valley.
Dartmouth's facility is licensed to care for 63 children, with full time care is offered for infants, toddlers and preschool aged children and after school care for those in kindergarten, said Jeff Robbins, director of the Child Care Center.
The expansion will create 23 new spaces, 21 of which will be reserved for children under the age of three.
According to Robbins, the waitlist currently contains the names of mostly infants and toddlers -- but not all parents are seeking immediate care for the child.
Space is so tight that some parents sign up for spots even before their children are born, Robbins said. Others find different arrangements while they're waiting.
Susan Lloyd, director of the Child Care Resource Office, said the increase in the number of families in which both parents work and the rise in the rate of female employment accounts for the shortage of child care in the area.
"Need has increased every year," Lloyd said, "and availability has decreased in the Hanover/Norwich area over the last 10 years."
The waitlist is long at many child care facilities in the Upper Valley. According to Allison Colburn, executive director of the Child Care Center in Norwich, Vt., there are usually between 40 and 50 names on their waitlist for children under three years old. About 30 percent of their spaces are filled by Dartmouth-affiliated families.
"Many of the Dartmouth-affiliated families that we have here are Dartmouth students with children because students are not eligible to use the DCCCC," Colburn said. She added that most of those students are enrolled in graduate programs at the College, but that some are undergraduates with children.
Robbins said that, to be eligible to use the College facility, "at least one parent must work half time or more at a Dartmouth facility and be eligible for Dartmouth benefits."
Carrie Lazarus of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Child Care Center said that the waitlist there is "between a year and a year and a half."
"We've talked about expansion here because the amount of employees we have here and the number of slots that we have doesn't match very well," Lazarus said.
"I think the real issue is, regardless of numbers, 23 slots is going to make a big difference," Robbins said. "We certainly are delighted to make more infant and toddler care available. I think it's going to take a bite out of the waiting list."
The room for new children will come from the addition of a wing at each end of the College's center, located at 21 Reservoir Road, one for infants and toddlers, the other for after-kindergarten care.