Support plan for good, affordable child care
Tracy Patnoe is the owner/director of Mud City Kids in Morrisville. She mentors fellow child care providers through the Vermont Birth to Five peer-to-peer mentoring program.
All parents want the best for their children. Like so many Vermont parents before and after me, when my second child was born, I struggled to find a slot in a quality child care program. With no other options, I started my own registered home program.
Today I am the owner and director of Mud City Kids Child Care Center, a licensed, four-star child care and early learning program in Morrisville that serves 40 children, ranging in age from 6 weeks to 5 years. I love what I do but it’s hard to make it sustainable.
My child care program, like so many others across the state, has struggled to stay in business. It’s no surprise to me that almost 80 percent of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality, regulated child care programs.
On average, child care workers in Vermont don’t earn a livable wage and often don’t have benefits, making it very difficult to attract and retain qualified staff. At Mud City Kids, we used to employ 18 people but staff turnover was a regular challenge, as was finding quality staff to replace those who left. In order to offer quality consistent care, we made the difficult decision to reduce our size.
Small groups make a huge difference in a child’s development, but it significantly impacts our limited budget. Our infant and toddler program loses almost $32,000 a year and our 2-year-old program breaks even, leaving our preschool program to try to make up the difference.
Another important aspect of the high-quality child care we offer is our food program. We served 12,648 meals and snacks to children in our program last year at a loss of $24,000.
Every year, when we decide our budget, we are forced to choose between avoiding a significant hit to our revenue or caring for children who aren’t getting the nutrition they need.
Last week, Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality Affordable Child Care issued a report to the Legislature and governor with recommendations to make high-quality child care affordable for parents as well as providers. I encourage Vermonters to read the commission’s report and to help make sure the recommendations turn into action.
What I love so much about my job: the true love a child gives us when she wraps her arms around our necks, the way a child’s whole face lights up when he smiles, and knowing we’re making a positive difference in each child’s life.
The work we do at Mud City Kids is important. Each new day, our quality care helps the children in our program move one step closer to realizing their full potential. It’s my wish that there will come a day when a majority of our society values our work enough to help make that care sustainable.
Sign the petition at letsgrowkids.org and show your support for prioritizing children and increasing public investments in high-quality, affordable child care to ensure every Vermont child has a strong start.
by Tracy Patnoe