Back-Up Care

Back-Up Care eligible employees will have access to 200 back-up care hours for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022.  
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The Back-Up Care Advantage Program®, provides care for adults/elders, children, or yourself when normal care arrangements are interrupted or when short-term care is required but you still need to perform your academic or work responsibilities. For these situations, Columbia University has contracted with Bright Horizons Family Solutions to provide access to 200 hours of back-up care per year; available 24/7, nationwide and in some international locations. 

When you have planned or unplanned changes to your usual care arrangements Back-Up Care Advantage Program®, can provide you with a professional caregiver in your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or at a qualified center.

See FAQ's to learn more. 

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Program Updates

  • Back-Up Care hours can be used for Steve & Kate's Summer Camps. Discounts are also available: $10 off per day when you reserve a week or multiple weeks of camp. Or, get $300 off a Summer Pass. 
  • Back-Up Care can be used to reserve an experienced tutor for your child and options are also available for adult and college-aged learners, including yourself! Eight hours of back-up care can be exchanged for 4 hours of virtual tutoring. Note that tutoring hours must be used within 90 days. Watch this video or review the FAQs to learn more. 
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You can take advantage of the Back-Up Care Advantage Program®, if you are a full-time Columbia*:

  • Officer of Instruction
  • Officer of Research
  • Officer of the Library
  • Officer of Administration
  • Non-Union Support Staff
  • Union 2110 Staff
  • Post-Docs - including Post-Doc Research Fellows, Research Scholars, and Research Scientists, regardless of eligibility for other University benefits
  • Doctoral student, enrolled either full-time or part-time
  • Teaching Fellow not in a Ph.D. program

*Eligibility does not extend to members of Columbia Affiliated Institutions (Barnard College, Teachers College, Jewish Theological Seminary, & Union Theological Seminary).

Prior to scheduling care for the first time, you will need to register with Bright Horizons.  We recommend registering even if you are not certain that you will need to use the Back-Up Care Program.  Advance registration saves time if and when you do need care.     

To register and/or schedule care:

  • Visit the Back-Up Care Website.
  • For first-time log-in, you can input: Username: columbia; Password: Benefits4You (case sensitive) for access; OR
  • Call 877-BH-CARES (242-2737)

Care can be scheduled from 90 days to 24 hours in advance.  While Bright Horizons will make every effort to accommodate care requests, they cannot guarantee availability especially in cases when requests are made less than 24 hours in advance.

Note: To use the Infant Transition Program bank of hours, select "Special Program" at the top of the page under type of reservation.

If you are looking for in-home care by a vaccinated caregiver, please specify your preference for a vaccinated caregiver by doing the following:

  • Use the “Special Instructions” feature on the website or mobile app to indicate your preference for a vaccinated caregiver.
  • Do not use the Book Now feature for reservations with special instructions – they cannot be processed through that system.
  • This caregiver vaccination request will then be visible to Bright Horizons when they receive the care request 
  • Bright Horizons has communicated with its providers that if reservations with these special instructions cannot be staffed with a vaccinated caregiver then the reservation will be changed to “out-of-network” care, which allows you to use your own vaccinated caregiver and receive a $100 reimbursement once you have completed the Request for Reimbursement form.
  • If you have requested a vaccinated caregiver, when your assigned caregiver checks in prior to coming to your home, you can certainly confirm the person’s vaccination status.  If there is any issue with their response and you want to cancel after 5 pm on the business day before care, please call Bright Horizons -- 877-BH-CARES (242-2737) – and let them know so that you are not charged a cancellation fee, nor will the hours be deducted from your bank of back-up care hours. 
  • Any change to a reservation (including cancellation and re-booking) requires you to re-enter your special instructions again because the system treats it as a new request.  
  • If you are already scheduled for in-home care and it is determined that the caregiver is not vaccinated when they contact you prior to coming to your home, you can cancel the request. You will not be charged a cancellation fee, nor will you have the hours deducted from your bank of back-up care hours. 

Back-up Care Program provides:

  • 200 hours of back-up care per fiscal year (July 1- June 30). 
  • Child care options
    • Center-based child care at a licensed facility near your home or campus; including access to Bright Horizons Back-up Care centers in Manhattan and in New Jersey that have dedicated back-up care capacity available to the employees of clients of Bright Horizons.
    • In-home care for children by qualified professionals. This covers up to three children of the eligible Columbia affiliate only and they all must be registered with Bright Horizons.
    • Steve and Kate's Camps 
    • Infant Transition Program to help families welcoming a new baby into their home by providing an additional 50 hours of care that can be used until your child turns one (for a total of 250 hours of available care). Note: This is a separate bank of hours from regular back-up care. Please request to use these hours first, before your child turns one. To use this bank of hours, select "Special Program" at the top of the page under type of reservation.
  • Adult/elder care options
    • In-home care for adults by qualified professionals.
  • Tutoring 
    • Eight hours of back-up care can be exchanged for 4 hours of virtual tutoring. Watch a video to learn more. 
    • These "exchanged" hours are credited to your tutoring account and must be used within 90 days.
    • Co-pay for tutoring is $3 per back-up care hour. So co-pay for 4 hours of tutoring is $24 (eight hours back-up x $3/hour = $24).
  • Coverage is nationwide and in the following international locations: Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

 Access to Regular Care:

  • Priority access pending availability, (first-come, first-served).  

  • In addition to back-up care services, Columbia affiliates eligible for the Back-Up Care Program also get priority access or priority waiting list if spots are not available to enroll their child for regular, on-going care at the Bright Horizons Centers at W. 96th Street, Columbus Circle, W. 72nd StreetRiverdale, and Adams Street in Brooklyn. These centers serve children from six weeks to six years old.

Who qualifies for care?

Back-up care is for anyone who relies on you for care–or for yourself. This includes infants through the elderly. The Back-Up Care Advantage Program® covers care for healthy children in centers or at home, and care at home for people of all ages who need it. 

Adults for whom you provide care do not have to reside with you; they may live down the hall or across the country. You may even arrange care so that your child or adult can accompany you when you travel for professional purposes.

How much does it cost?

There is no cost to register for the Back-Up Care Advantage Program®. Columbia University covers most of the costs for back-up care. 

Columbia covers much of the cost for back-up care except for the copays listed below:

  • Center-Based Child Care: $3 copay per hour per child 
  • In-Home Care for Children or Adults Copay Structure:
    • $7  per hour for the first 75 hours used
    • $9 per hour for hours 76-150
    • $12 per hour for hours 151-200 
    • $7 per hour for Infant Transition hours
  • There is a 4 hour minimum for care reservations.  
  • Note that your back-up care copays may be a qualified expense if you have a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account. 

Child Care

  • Your regular sitter is taking a few days of vacation or is ill and you can’t miss work this week.  You can use in-home or center-based care for those days.
  • You typically get your children up and to school in the morning but you have to go out of town for a conference and your partner or spouse must leave early for work.  Back-up care can arrange for someone to come to your home to get your children ready for the day and take them to school.  
  • You have a child with special needs whose care is split between day care and home care. But the day care center is closed for the day, and the home care attendant cannot come in for the full day. Back-up care can send you a qualified home care attendant to fill in.
  • Your spouse or partner is in the hospital; and you need help taking care of the children. Back-up care can arrange for an in-home sitter or care at a child care center until he or she is able to help again.

Adult Care

  • A parent, spouse/partner, or in-law lives alone. He or she has a change in health status - a stroke, a fall, a progressive illness - and will no longer be able to live independently. While you are helping to find a permanent care solution, Back-up care can provide an in-home health aide, so that you do not need to miss work.
  • You are the caregiver for a disabled adult at nights and on weekends and you need to go to a conference out of town. Back-up care can provide an in-home caregiver to provide care while you are away.
  • A parent, relative, or in-law lives in another state and their usual care attendant is on vacation for a week. Back-up care can arrange for a substitute until the attendant returns from vacation


  • Eight hours of back-up care can be exchanged for 4 hours of virtual tutoring. Watch this video or review the FAQs to learn more.  

How to best use the back-up care program

  • Register in advance! Registration is free but required prior to using the program to schedule care. You can register online or by phone, 877-BH-CARES (242-2737).  Upon registering, you can search for care options both close to home and close to work.
  • Advance reservations are strongly encouraged whenever possible. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance of the day care is needed. 
  • Same-day requests for care may be difficult to fill. This is especially true during school holidays when centers fill up quickly.  Please refer to the High Demand Dates List to note the days that are particularly busy. You may make a reservation online, by phone or with the mobile app. The call center is available 24/7/365.
  • If you have made an advance reservation and then realize that your plans have changed, you can always cancel your reservation with no fee provided you do so by 5:00 pm on the business day prior to the day of scheduled care.
  • When placing a reservation you can prioritize your care options by letting Bright Horizons know what centers or providers you would like to use. It is best to provide several options for care in the event your first choice is not available.
  • When scheduling in-home care you can ask for an introductory phone call between you and your in-home care provider and/or request that the care giver come early on the day you need care. This will give you an opportunity to become acquainted.
  • You are also welcome to tour one of the centers used for drop-off care.

High demand dates refer to those days throughout the year when local public or independent schools are closed and therefore demand for Back-Up Care is higher than usual.  If you know you will need care on a high demand date, it is best to arrange care as early as possible, up to 30 days in advance. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Third Monday of January) 

Presidents Day (Third Monday of February)
Mid-winter Recess for Public Schools (Week of Presidents Day)
Lunar New Year (Varies Year to Year) 

Spring Break for Columbia University (Third Week of March)
Spring Break for NYC Independent Schools and some Private Schools (Last Two Weeks of March)
Good Friday (Varies Year to Year)

Spring Break for Public Schools (Varies Year to Year)
Good Friday (Varies Year to Year)


Summer Break Begins for NYC Independent and Public Schools (Dates Vary)

Summer Break for NYC Independent and Public Schools (All Month)

Summer Break for Independent and Public Schools (All Month)
Summer Break for Many Child Care Centers (Last Two Weeks of August)

Rosh Hashanah (Varies Year to Year)
Yom Kippur (Varies Year to Year)
Eid al-Adha (Varies Year to Year)

Rosh Hashanah (Varies Year to Year)
Yom Kippur (Varies Year to Year)
Columbus Day (Second Monday of October)

Election Day (Tuesday following the First Monday in November)
NJEA Conference for New Jersey Public Schools (First or Second Thursday & Friday in November)
Veterans Day (November 11) 

Winter Break for NYC Independent Schools (Typically Week before Christmas through New Year’s Day)
Winter Break for Public Schools (Week between Christmas and New Year’s Day)
New Year’s Eve (December 31)

Bright Horizons Care Advantage®

This program offers additional family support through a comprehensive online care database for ongoing child and adult care, evening, weekend, and pet care needs. Employees are responsible for costs related to care for these new services: 

  • Free, unlimited access to regular, non-urgent child and adult care, pet care, and housekeeping services through Sittercity’s online caregiver database, free basic background checks, and free access to the site 
  • Preferred enrollment at select Bright Horizons centers nationwide – includes registration fee credit.    
  • Tuition discounts at partner centers – up to 10% for children ages 2-12
  • Discounts on tutoring through Revolution Prep or exchange Back-Up hours for tutoring through Varsity Tutors or Sylvan Learning
  • Free general elder care planning support through Years Ahead online assessment tools
  • Discounts on Summer Camps, Enrichment Programs and Educational Supports
    • Steve & Kate’s Camp: Get $10 off per day when you reserve a week or $300 off a Summer Pass. 
    • Code Ninjas: Turn your kid’s love for computers into a fun and exciting learning adventure with discounts up to 20%.
    • Brooklyn Robot Foundry: bring hands-on STEAM learning to your family with amazing programs and virtual robot camps! Save 15% on virtual offerings. 
    • Right At School: Save up to 20% on after-school, before-school and summer camp programs.

Visit the Caregiving Programs & Resources page for more information.