Jul 14, 2017VT Digger
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Tabetha Luhn, a University of Vermont student living in Burlington who is an intern and grassroots canvasser for Let’s Grow Kids. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science and anthropology with a global health focus.
Studies show that by age 5 about 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed. I believe every parent should have the peace of mind that the care and supervision their child receives is maximizing this growth.
As a 21-year-old college student you may wonder how the issue of access to affordable child care impacts me and my childless peers. Upon graduation, many students such as myself will face the decision of whether to stay in Vermont or leave, and an issue like affordable child care can severely impact where a young person chooses to begin establishing their career and life.
Vermont’s aging population and lack of new residents has created a scarcity of skilled workers for businesses in the state. My peers and I have found a second home here in Vermont and with the right circumstances many of us would love to build our adult lives here. But for those of us looking to start families of our own, it’s hard to think about settling down in Vermont when we hear that nearly 80 percent of infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality programs and that families lucky enough to find a spot are spending up to 40 percent of their household income on child care.
This issue is also personal to me as someone who was raised by a single parent who struggled to find affordable care for me and my sister and often faced the difficult decision to forgo desperately needed income by staying home with us when necessary. The child care that we could afford was often provided by neighbors or family members who lacked the training or knowledge of how to provide us with the proper nutrition, learning experiences or nurturing connections which would maximize our development during this critically important time. This created other challenges for us when we began elementary school, as my sister had difficulty socializing with her peers and I struggled with learning to read and write.
Vermont’s child care challenge affects every Vermonter, even those of us without children. A recent study found that every dollar invested to expand Vermont’s early care and learning programs would yield a $3.08 return. When we invest in early childhood development we see children grow into more productive adults and we save public spending on things like special education, health care and corrections.
There is a solution to this problem. We need to improve the Child Care Financial Assistance Program in Vermont by reforming the eligibility standards so more Vermonters are eligible, providing more assistance to those who need it, and updating the pay rates for care providers who are not paid based on their current rates.
Each of us can doing something to help solve this problem. Spreading awareness about this issue to young people like myself and those without children so that they understand how this issue impacts us all is an important first step.
Visit www.letsgrowkids.org to learn how you can get involved and be sure to sign the petition in support of increased public investments in high-quality, affordable child care. You can also let your voice be heard by being an active participant in our democracy and writing or calling your legislator.