The federal government has failed to live up to its responsibility to help its employes with their "pressing" need for child care and should create more day care centers at federal job sites, a House committee concludes in a report to be released today.
The House Government Operations Committee called on the federal government, particularly the General Services Administration, to take a lead in developing on-site child care facilities to provide "a useful model and inspiration for private business."
"At present, there is no effective leadership within the federal government to provide for the day care needs of some 3 million civilian federal workers. Within GSA there continues to be a similar lack of effectiveness and organization concerning child care," the report concluded. The committee urged GSA to be "more vigorous, helpful and innovative in facilitating and promoting the establishment of federally assisted child care centers."
Asked to comment on the committee's recommendations, GSA spokesman Stephen Guiheen said yesterday, "I think we are really on top of these. We have them all in the works." Also, the committee report pointed to moves by GSA in the past year to "take a more active role" in promoting on-site child care.
The committee sharply criticized the Social Security Administration, contending that the agency has "made no secret of its opposition to on-site day care" and instead planned to use a child care information and referral service. The report warned that this "bulletin board" approach would be detrimental to employe morale and productivity at the agency.
Social Security officials have argued that employes prefer child care facilities near their homes rather than at work.
As more women have entered the work force, employers have noted increasing demands from working couples and single parents for reliable child care. Although many businesses have sought ways to provide assistance, most companies and some government agencies have been reluctant to create day care facilities at their offices because of concerns over costs, potential liability and whether employes will consistently use on-site centers.
Some federal agencies have established work site child care facilities, but, child care advocates say, the efforts have been erratic and piecemeal.
The report lists 10 on-site centers at GSA-controlled buildings throughout the country. In addition, some on-site centers have been opened for federal employes in buildings that are not under GSA's control. These include a day care center at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board's headquarters at 17th and G streets NW and a facility in Crystal City for employes of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Washington area has more than a dozen work site centers used by federal employes, including three that opened last month.
Proposals for the centers generally have been initiated by employes, who often have confronted management resistance, bureaucratic tangles and insufficient help from GSA or any central authority, the report found. It said the committee is "distressed" that more agencies have not provided on-site centers.
However, Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the panel's government activities and transportation subcommittee, which has held hearings on the issue, noted that GSA has pledged to take further steps.
GSA plans to carry out the committee's top recommendation this month by announcing the appointment of a high-level official with specific responsibility for child care programs, according to Collins and GSA spokesman Guiheen.
GSA Administrator Terence C. Golden earlier had told the subcommittee that child care will be a top priority for GSA this fall and that the agency will survey all federal workers on their child care needs.