When anthropology professor Beatriz Reyes-Foster arrived at UCF in 2011 she was a little surprised there was no university network for faculty who have children.
There were family-leave workshops for those thinking about starting a family, but there was no grassroots network to help parents who might need a referral for a pediatrician or a good babysitter near campus. And there was no vehicle for discussing topics such as how to correct hundreds of essays while with a teething 1-year-old demanding attention.
She thought back to her days of graduate school in California and recalled the well-known Berkeley Parents Network, which was available to all university employees with children in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“It was such a wonderful resource,” Reyes-Foster said. “When I had my first child and arrived at UCF I thought, why can’t we have something like that here.”
The Berkeley Parents Network, started by a graduate student in 1993, offers university parents throughout the Bay Area – more than 32,000 – a host or resources all through email and more recently through a website. Need a last minute babysitter, pediatrician referral or tips on managing your work and personal life? You can find all that on the network, and because many members are academics, there are often in-depth discussions about studies on paid family leave, child development and special education.
Never one to sit around waiting for things to happen, Reyes-Foster launched the UCF Faculty Parents Network on Facebook in 2011 with the support of the UCF Center for Success of Women Faculty.
The UCF page currently has about 85 members that range from staff to full professors. It’s a closed group, which means people have to ask to be accepted, but being a faculty member or employee at UCF is all that’s needed to gain entry.
The group is a mix of men and women, and the topics covered run the gamut, Reyes-Foster said. Just in the past four months the topics covered by participants have included: a new study on the impact of fluoride on neurological development in children, adjunct pay, declining birthrates, information on free theatre performances around town, and several giveaways of gently used baby furniture.
“This is a great resource,” said Linda Walters, director of the UCF Center for Success of Women Faculty. “The page generates healthy discussion about a broad range of topics and also offers members a place to discuss sometimes sensitive topics with people who have gone through the same process and can provide valuable information.”
Currently the network focuses on families with younger children, but Walters would love to see that be expanded to include middle school and high school issues.
Reyes-Foster last year also scheduled a few on-campus meetings based on topics of interest from the Facebook page and playdates for some of the members and their children on weekends.
“It’s a work in process, but I know the folks that are active on the page seem to really enjoy it,” she said.
Walters said she hopes to see the page grow in popularity and that the interactions on the page will translate into real-world interactions, which helps build community.
“This is just the beginning and we’re very excited to have lots of people on board,” Walters said.
Anyone who is on the UCF faculty or staff and is interested in joining this group can search for “UCF Faculty Parents Network” on Facebook or contact Reyes-Foster at [email protected].”