Let’s grow kids, not put them on a waiting list

Dear Editor,

In response to the article “Budget Proposal Raises Worries of Waitlist for Child Care Subsidy” published by VTDigger.org last week, Let’s Grow Kids would like to issue the following statement to the media.

Vermont cannot afford to place the healthy development of our children on a waiting list.

Every Vermont child deserves a strong start. However, 40-50 percent of Vermont’s children enter kindergarten unprepared. Additionally, 1 in 4 of Vermont’s children do not have expected levels of social and emotional development and 1 in 6 of Vermont’s children rank below expected levels on communications skills.

These indicators should inspire a call to action; not a wait list.

We know that the first five years of life are the most crucial to a child’s healthy development, laying the foundation for their success in relationships, in school and in life. It is during this period that quality early learning experiences are imperative to support their healthy cognitive, social and emotional development.

While it’s the natural desire and responsibility of parents to provide children with a healthy environment, more than 70 percent of Vermont’s children under the age of 6 live in households where all parents are in the labor force, which means that many of Vermont’s children need some form of out-of-home care.

The chronic underfunding of Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program, an important resource for Vermont families to enroll their children in quality child care programs while parents work or attend school, is threatening to place Vermont families and children on a wait list for much-needed tuition assistance.

Governor Shumlin’s proposed 2017 budget does not include adequate funding for the child care financial assistance program, which means that working families who are eligible to receive tuition assistance for their children may instead be placed on a wait list. The consequences of this can devastate working families who rely on our child care system in order to work. It can also place a burden on Vermont’s businesses who depend on employees’ access to child care and, most importantly, it can limit a child’s access to quality care that supports his or her healthy development.

Placing our youngest children on a wait list denies them access to quality care, creates tough choices for families and harms our economy.

We’re working with the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance and others in the early childhood community to inform Vermonters and policymakers of Vermont’s child care challenge and the need to create positive, lasting change. We urge the legislature to fund the child care financial assistance program.

Let’s Grow Kids is a public awareness and engagement campaign about the important role that high-quality, affordable child care can play in supporting the healthy development of Vermont’s children during their first five years–the most important years for laying a foundation for success in relationships, in school and in life. Because Vermont’s shortage of high-quality, affordable child care is a serious challenge for our communities and our economy, our goal is to gain public support leading to increased, sustainable investment that gives all children the chance to reach their full potential.

Robyn Freedner-Maguire, Let’s Grow Kids

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