Vermont needs quality, affordable childcare options
Children are our future. When it comes to preparing our children for success in school, relationships and life, the first years are the most important. I have worked at various child care centers around my town, and I'm shocked at what it costs for parents and providers, what childcare workers are paid, and what quality means in these places.
Childcare is hard work. It's fun, but exhausting. Employees coming to work tired and stressed can contribute to a hostile work environment. I know, because I lived it. I watched wonderful people around me at work try their best to care for many children for long hours every day after caring for their own all morning and night. I watched people come to work stressed from situations at home, which affects kids in their care. I watched fellow employees lose patience with children and mistreat them. I heard almost all of my co-workers complain to one another about how little we were paid and contemplate how will we pay our bills? We filled our time with more jobs, education, and stress of trying to get by on our minimum wage, or slightly above. I saw parents struggle to pay what they owed because they, too, were living in poverty. I watched centers nearly collapse because the costs of providing quality care are high.
Our children need us at our best. Most people that work in childcare are strong, responsible, caring, knowledgeable, diligent, busy, nurturing and loving. They bust their butts at work, and don't get paid nearly enough to care for their own families.
Children need consistent adults in their lives, and many get that consistent reassurance — meals, play, love, rest — in childcare. By loving and teaching our kids well, we have the power to transform how a child sees the world.
We have a long way to go in terms of quality and affordability, and this should be one of Vermont's main priorities. It is an investment for the future. I'd like to see more centers, more options, more quality, more affordability, and more love coming into these kids' lives. This will directly impact our families, communities, our economy and beyond.
It is encouraging that Governor Phil Scott decided to include early care and education in his budget proposal. We know that investments in early childhood pay themselves back many times over when children reach adulthood, both in increased productivity in the workforce and decreased social costs in healthcare, special education and corrections.
There is no quick fix, but our personal stories make the child care crisis in VT real, and I hope that more of us will share these stories with our local legislators. A simple and quick way to get involved is to sign the petition at www.letsgrowkids.org to express your support for prioritizing children and increasing public investments in high-quality, affordable child care. I am staying positive that with so much support, Vermont will see a better child care system in the future.
— Abby Skidmore