Family Care Office: Experiences of Students Who Are Also Parents

Family Care Office

Family Care Office: Experiences of Students Who Are Also Parents

As a part of the University of Toronto, the Family Care Office provides programs and specialized support for students with family and parental responsibilities. In partnership with Family Care Office, the Innovation Hub explored the needs of students who are also parents, as they navigate their multiple roles and responsibilities while studying. The data collected helps inform future programs and services for student parents at the University of Toronto.

Fall/Winter 2023-2024

How Do Student Parents Navigate Their Multiple Roles and Responsibilities?

In partnership with the Family Care Office, the Innovation Hub aimed to explore the needs and perspective of students who are also parents. The data and stories collected were used to better understand what student parents need as they navigate their multiple roles and responsibilities while studying. We hope that the insights from this research will help the University of Toronto, with the Family Care Office’s leadership, to co-create future programs and services that enable student parents to fully engage in campus life.

Student Parents Team Photo

OUR APPROACH

In the fall of 2023, we conducted 6 group feedback sessions and 2 interviews speaking to 31 student parents about their experiences and perspectives pursuing their education while having family duties. In the winter of 2024, we conducted 3 co-creation sessions speaking to 12 student parents about understanding their feedback for strengthening the report.

For the second phase of the project, we hosted co-creation sessions to share the original findings from the January 2024 report and hear students’ thoughts and reactions. We also engaged students in co-creation activities to hear their ideas about how U of T can better support students who are also parents. We spoke to 12 students across 3 co-creation sessions. A summary of the co-creation sessions, reactions to the data, and summarized ideas are contained in the Co-Creation Sessions and Design Principles sections of this report.

KEY FINDINGS

A family-friendly university empowers student parents to fully contribute to academic life.

We found that students who are parents offer meaningful and distinctive viewpoints to academic conversations and diversify the University of Toronto student population. The student parents we spoke with expressed eagerness to fully engage with campus life, but experienced feelings of isolation and were overwhelmed while balancing their responsibilities as students with those of parenting. Becoming a parent expands one’s worldview, and students who are parents bring invaluable knowledge, dedication, and thought leadership to the academic community. Student parents reported constantly facing impossible choices between the needs of their child(ren) and the demands of their academic program, ultimately leaving them to feel that they couldn’t give their full attention to either role. We envision a future where university leaders work together to ensure policy, procedure, programming and practices align with the needs of student parents.

Theme 3_ Healthy Boundaries