Last Sunday, at an event called "Circus-palooza" in Shelburne, a single dad took a deep breath and admitted on camera, "Sometimes it feels like you might as well just sit at home and not work at all. Because the expenses of child care are overwhelming. I can't keep up."

This hard-working dad was participating in an interview for Small Talk, a new initiative of Let's Grow Kids and several key partners to collect the personal stories of Vermonters who have interacted with Vermont's early childhood system.

The Circus-palooza interviews were a test run for Small Talk's official launch event this past Tuesday at the Lund Early Childhood Education Program in South Burlington. The Small Talk team interviewed seven more Vermonters at the Lund site—including parents, providers and State Representative Barbara Rachelson, who is the Executive Director of Lund (on the left, speaking with LGK Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire).

“We were so honored and thrilled to host Small Talk at Lund, and we’re grateful for all the work that Let’s Grow Kids is doing to spread awareness about the importance of Early Childhood Education in Vermont," Barbara said. "The families that we work with at Lund are faced with many challenges when trying to find affordable, high quality child care for their children so that they can work, pursue treatment or continue their education. Helping to make Vermonters aware of these issues and giving a forum for people to share these stories is so critical, and Small Talk is a great way to do that. As a child advocate, working parent, employer, director of a nonprofit organization devoted to the wellbeing of children and families in Vermont and, finally, as a legislator, I am proud to support the work of Small Talk.”

This summer, the Small Talk team—LGK community education director, Molly Loomis (right), and Small Talk coordinator, Lisa Boege Loomis (left)—will be on the road, meeting Vermonters across the state and recording their stories on camera. The Small Talk van, a mobile video-editing recording studio, will visit fairs, markets and other community events for scheduled interviews. Small Talk will also visit communities on request. Click here to see a list of currently scheduled Small Talk events or to request a visit to your region.

What will Let's Grow Kids do with the stories? "Policymakers, community leaders, and others need to hear these stories to understand why the early years are so important and how we can do a better job of giving every child a strong start and equal chance in life," says Molly. Some of the videos will be posted on the Let's Grow Kids website and YouTube channel, and will be available for sharing via social media and email.

In one of the Small Talk interviews at Lund a mother said, "We need so many more Lunds. I was incredibly fortunate to find it—I feel like I've won the child care lottery! But if I've won, how many other moms have lost?" This mom was speaking to the fact that quality child care is unaffordable and inaccessible for too many families who rely on it in Vermont.

"If I want my son to go to college one day or if we want to do fun stuff like take trips, or go to the beach, or go to the zoo, I can’t afford to keep working in the job that I love," said an early educator at Lund. Child care professionals in Vermont and across the nation often don't earn a livable wage because the costs of offering quality care are high, and providers know they can't fully pass those costs onto the shoulders of already financially strapped parents. 

"We really believe in the need for affordable, high quality child care that is accessible to all families," says Charlotte Blend, communications coordinator at Lund. "The work of Let’s Grow Kids is making important and needed steps in getting this message out to the public and to the agencies that can affect real change. The voices that come out of these Small Talk videos represent the reality that so many parents and teachers face and we were very happy to have this avenue to help share those voices.”

To find out how Small Talk interviews work or see a list of potential questions you might be asked, visit letgrowkids.og/small-talk. Small Talk's next stop is at Lamoille County Field Days in Johnson this weekend. Sign up for that event here.

Let's Grow Kids is grateful for the support of its excellent partners: Building Bright Futures, Vermont Community Access Media, and The Vermont Folklife Center.

A Special Announcement from the Permanent Fund:

On Tuesday, the Permanent Fund for Vermont's Children—the parent organization of Let's Grow Kids—announced the selection of Alyson Richards as the fund’s new Chief Executive Officer. Currently Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Peter Shumlin, Aly will assume her duties at the Permanent Fund September 1. Tomorrow, July 24, is her last day in the Governor’s Office.

“Last week the Governor noted that kids born in Vermont are better off today because of the good work Aly has done,” said Rick Davis, President and founder of the Permanent Fund. “We are excited to have her join us not just because of what she has already accomplished for kids in Vermont, but because of the even greater things she is going to help us accomplish together. At the Permanent Fund, we have a simple idea that is going to require the kind of leadership Aly brings: We want to assure that every Vermont child has access to high quality and affordable early care and learning.”

We at Let's Grow Kids welcome Aly and look forward to her leadership during this time of great opportunity for Vermont's children!

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