Tom Torti is President of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Last week the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality Affordable Child Care sent its final report to the governor and Legislature. The report provides policymakers with recommendations and financing options to make high-quality affordable child care available to all families who need it. The report makes one thing clear: investing in high-quality affordable child care and early education is a social and economic imperative for our state.
Business owners and human resource managers are often placed in the untenable position of having to balanced their need to get work done with the real-life child care crises faced by their employees. With over 70% of a child’s caregivers working, the loss of care, the effects of sub-standard care and the strict hourly limits on care regularly force parents to choose between taking care of their children or taking care of their job. In such situations, nobody wins. Business suffers, parents become stressed and the children are caught in crossfire.
The need for child care is a reality for a majority of Vermont families with young children. As noted above, more than 70% of Vermont children under age 6 have all of their parents in the workforce, meaning they're likely to need some form of child care.
When working-parents can’t find child care, businesses lose talented employees. National research shows that over a six-month period: 45% of parents are absent from work at least once due to child care issues, missing an average of 4.3 days, and 65% of parents’ work schedules are affected by child care challenges an average of 7.5 times. These child care challenges cost U.S. employers an estimated $3 billion annually.
In Vermont, one of our most critical economic challenges is to attract new skilled workers for the state's businesses. When new workers with young families are considering opportunities, there is an immediate checklist of requirements. This list includes the availability of: affordable housing, high-quality, affordable child care and a quality public education system.
Investing in early childhood is the smartest investment we can choose to make as a society. High-quality, affordable child care is an economic driver. It ensures that parents can continue to work and fosters the health and development of our future workforce, leaders and innovators. In fact, a Nobel-prize-winning national study showed that investments made in early childhood yield a 10% annual rate of return.
Vermont can’t afford to let the Blue-Ribbon Commission’s report sit on a shelf; it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Now that we have a roadmap, it’s going to be up to all of us to turn these recommendations into positive, lasting change for children. You can start by signing the petition at www.letsgrowkids.org.
Click here to read this story on VermontBiz.com.