Nov 15, 2017Burlington Free Press
I believe all children deserve a strong start and that includes spending time with a caring adult who loves and supports them. Child care providers fulfill this role for many of Vermont’s children when their parents or caregivers are at work.
I’m a child care teacher. I use the word teacher on purpose. I teach children about fair play. I teach children to share. I teach children to take turns. I teach children songs and read them books to build literacy. I engage with children so they feel loved and lovable. I do all this every day for a low wage.
On average, Vermont child care workers earn less than $27,000 a year and many of us don’t get benefits. Every day, we are supporting the healthy development of Vermont’s children. An infant’s brain forms one million new neural connections every single second! We are with children during the most critical time for development. We are supporting families as well as employers. Meanwhile, early educators like myself are struggling to make ends meet. I not only need a livable wage, I need a wage that reflects the essential and important work that I do.
Vermont is losing dedicated, caring child care providers at an alarming rate because they simply can’t afford to stay in the field and support their own families. In fact, child care is one of the top 10 occupations in the state with the highest number of openings, on average, per year. With an already critical child care shortage, Vermont can’t afford to keep losing providers.
A better future for children and families in Vermont – and across the nation – looks like this: families have access to quality child care. They have access to affordable child care, so they don’t have to stress about making ends meet. They have access to a variety of centers and homes which are welcoming, well-funded, attractive places where children learn and grow in a safe, supportive, loving environment. Since the teachers in these centers are respected and acknowledged for raising the next generation of healthy, stable Americans, they are well-paid, and there is low turn-over.
What can you do as one individual about this critical problem? Sign the petition at letsgrowkids.org to express your support for increasing public investments in high quality, affordable child care where all providers are well-paid. You can talk to your legislators to let them know you care about this important issue. You can visit letsgrowkids.org to get involved. You can talk to your employer about ways s/he/they can also get involved.
Lydia Hill lives in Shelburne.