BURLINGTON—By early afternoon on Town Meeting Day 2016, it was clear that one challenge that’s quickly becoming urgent in Vermonters’ minds is the cost, availability and quality of child care for Vermont’s youngest children. The evidence? Hundreds of Vermonters showed up at 100 polling places in 90 cities and towns around Vermont to discuss the challenges around child care with their neighbors.
What these Let’s Grow Kids (LGK) volunteers heard shows that Vermonters are feeling the burden of the tough choices behind trying to provide their children with quality child care.
“The Westford Town Meeting was an exciting one and there was a great turnout. A number of families related to the current child care challenge,” said Kara von Behren. “One grandmother spoke of the challenges her daughter is facing finding care for her children. She can’t find spaces in high-quality programs and has had to move her kids multiple times already, trying to juggle cost and high-quality because she doesn’t see a way to have both.”
For more observations from Let’s Grow Kids volunteers, see “Voices from LGK Volunteers, Town Meeting Day 2016,” below.
With local budgets and a national race serving as a backdrop, Let’s Grow Kids volunteers found Vermonters ready to talk about the issue found at the heart of most elections: the future of the state’s children. By 3 p.m., Let’s Grow Kids volunteers reported that approximately 500 Vermonters had today signed a pledge joining the campaign to promote the role that high-quality, affordable child care can play in supporting the healthy development of children during their first five years. Before today, more than 8100 Vermonters had already joined the campaign by signing a pledge.
“The challenges of finding high-quality, affordable child care are motivating people in Vermont to take action,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire. “We’re grateful that we have so many loyal volunteers who are talking with their neighbors about the importance of child care to working families and the healthy development of Vermont’s children. We’re asking Vermonters to join the campaign and to be a part of the solution.”
Responding to Vermonters’ concerns, the Legislature in 2015 created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care. By November 1, the commission is expected to issue recommendations to make high-quality child care more affordable and available for Vermonters.
The need is clear:
Many middle income Vermont families spend between 28% and 40% of their income on child care and yet, child care workers in Vermont earn an average of $24,070 per year—often without benefits.
With more than 70% of Vermont’s children under age 6 living in households where all parents are in the labor force, too many Vermonters don’t have access to high-quality, affordable child care.
Voices from LGK Volunteers, Town Meeting Day 2016
Mary Claire Carroll – Richmond
“We talked to a lot of people and had a really receptive audience. Parents and grandparents had a shared frustration as to why things had not changed or improved over the generations. Affordability and accessibility are a problem now just as they were 30 years ago. There hasn’t been much in the way of improvements or changes. There needs to be change.”
Samantha Eayrs, South Burlington
“Many grandparents brought their grandchildren to the polls. One woman who used to own and operate a child care said, ‘Of course I’ll sign the pledge. Everyone should support quality experiences for young children.’”
Meredith Wade, Putney
"I was delighted with how ready people were to sign and support the pledge. Even if they no longer have young kids, people knew that affordable care is an issue.”
Sally Ingraham, Northfield
“There was great conversation at the Northfield poll. So many people talked about not finding the quality care they want for their children, with some parents saying they were still on a waiting list. Another commonality was the affordability of child care.”
Lisa Vinick, Morrisville
“I talked to someone who recalled that when her daughter was 3 years old, she had already been to 7 different child care providers. Her daughter is now 22 years old. This wasn’t talked about then. At least now we are talking about it!”
Stacey Grau, Pawlet
“There were maybe 60 people at our poll and of those, 40 signed the Let’s Grow Kids pledge because they know high quality care is important. The experience was really great and I’m going to go back to the polls tonight.”