Kids in the Classroom Can Help Single Moms Rise From Poverty

What are the options when child care suddenly falls through and your next class starts in 15 minutes?

Take your baby to class with you?

Kylee Barnes tried that a few years ago when her son was 2 and she was enrolled in community college in Albany, Ore. “We hadn’t been there three minutes when the professor said, ‘I’m sorry that’s not going to work out,” she says.

Now a graduate student in Oregon State University’s master’s program in applied anthropology, Barnes had the opposite experience when she returned to class in January, two weeks after giving birth to her second child. Not only was her newborn welcomed in all her classes, she also was able to breastfeed her child without having to miss any lessons.

Eight years ago, one of her professors, Melissa Cheyney, had created a written policy that permits student parents to bring their breastfeeding babies to class on an unlimited basis and their older children on those occasions when child care unexpectedly falls through. Cheyney’s policy has been adopted by educators on her campus and across the country, as well as in Canada.

“It’s not just a matter of letting me bring my child; my professors aren’t just dealing with it,” Barnes says. “They are encouraging it. They recognize it’s important for me to follow through with my passion, outside of being a mother.”

Student parents represent about one-quarter of all U.S. undergraduates—about half of them single parents, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

And while their ranks have been growing, the number of two- and four-year colleges with on-campus child care declined more than 5 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to the research institute. On campuses where child care does exist, students and educators say it’s seldom adequate—often cost-prohibitive, with long wait lists.

At the same time, campuswide policies that allow students to…

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