Dec 16, 2021

Highlights from our Child Care Legislator Events

Highlights from our Child Care Legislator Events
From a previous Child Care Legislator Event at Children Unlimited on January 28, 2019.

Last week was a big one! We launched the 2022 Child Care Transformation Plan, our legislative agenda for the coming year. Our priorities include funding to support:

  • Emergency compensation and recruitment tools for early childhood educators,
  • Funding the Child Care Financing Study to move forward as passed in H.171,
  • Investments in the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) to make child care more affordable for families, and
  • Ensuring the continued implementation of H.171.

As part of this launch, hundreds of Vermonters from every corner of the state met with their legislators to share their stories about their experiences with Vermont’s child care system, how the child care crisis has impacted them, and to advocate for continued legislative action in 2022. This policy plan is the next step in our campaign for high-quality, affordable child care for all Vermont families, and it starts now!

Some key numbers and information to highlight from this past week:

  • We hosted 11 child care legislator events in various counties across the state, including in Windsor, Lamoille, Bennington, Caledonia, Franklin/Grand Isle, Rutland, Addison, Windham, Orange, Chittenden, and Washington.
  • We had participation from nearly 300 early childhood educators, supporters, volunteers, and business owners.
  • Joining in on the discussion were 38 Vermont state representatives and senators – many voiced their support for our 2022 legislative agenda.

During the events, families, early childhood educators, employers, and community members shared powerful stories and insights related to the child care challenges that they’ve been facing. We heard from:

  • Rosemary Moser, an early childhood educator from Middletown Springs: “We do this work not just because we love children, but because we believe in the importance of the first years of life and learning to the future health, well-being, and success of each child, and as a result, our communities.”
  • Kristen Dunne, a resident of Orwell and teacher at Mary Johnson: “Staffing is all consuming – every morning, every night, every moment is changing. We were struggling with this before the pandemic. We have people on wait lists because we can’t get staff. The staff we have are incredible and they love what they do, but they’re tired. Asking them to do more just isn’t possible.”
  • Sage Ruth, a resident of Brattleboro: “I’m so excited to raise my child in Vermont, in the place where I grew up, but it is heart breaking to see how hard it is for families to find and afford child care. And, early educators are literally risking their lives to take care of my child in a pandemic but not making a living wage.”
  • Ally Hook, resident of Chelsea: “My husband lost his job during the pandemic, couldn’t afford to send two kids to child care full-time, so we’ve decided that my husband will stay home. $26,000 a year for child care seems crazy, but it doesn’t even cover good wages and benefits for people working there. I’ve known other young people who’ve left the state because of this. I firmly believe that if we fix this, they will move back.”
  • Kyle Sipples, a resident of St. Johnsbury and HR Manager for the Auto Saver Group: “We’ve been trying to encourage and promote women in our workplace. One of our biggest challenges in encouraging women to enter the workplace… is the availability of child care. It’s been a tremendous challenge for us.” Then he said, “The people who suffer the most are folks coming in at entry-level jobs, looking to start their career.”

(Note: There were many more powerful stories and statements that were shared but we could not include them all here.)

Legislators from across the state also expressed their support for an equitable, accessible, affordable, high-quality child care system and the immediate need to address the ongoing child care workforce crisis. Here’s what just a few legislators had to say:

  • Rep. Dane Whitman (Bennington-2-1): “As we’re looking to implement H.171, child care and housing are the linchpin of the economy. Investing in the child care workforce is how we’re going to expand slots and availability, both in the short term and the long term. Thank you to providers and families for hanging in there.”
  • Rep. Scott Campbell (District Caledonia-3): “Why don’t we treat child care as being as important as public education? Child care is really important and we have to fund it.”
  • Rep. Stephanie Jerome (District Rutland-6): “I see this as a workforce development issue. There is no doubt this is an imperative issue that has got to be solved. We are at the time, where all this money is coming into the state and Let’s Grow Kids is ready to help. We have a chance to make a difference.”
  • Sen. Ruth Hardy (Addison District): “This session, we’ll be focused on continuing the path set out by H.171. There will be a lot of focus on workforce development, which includes child care. I’m hopeful we can invest more federal funds.”
  • Rep. Maida Townsend (Chittenden-7-4): “I want to underscore how much you have the choir with you. Just because we got H.171 passed doesn’t mean we’re done, we have to stay on our toes and at the forefront.”

All in all, Vermont legislators heard one thing loud and clear: Child care is essential to Vermont’s children, families, early childhood educators, employers, and our state’s economy.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our successful community meetings this past week across Vermont. We can only accomplish our mission with your help, support, and determination.

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