This poster was created by the diners at the Groundworks Collaborative winter shelter, Brattleboro, Vermont, in gratitude for the meals provided by Putney Friends.
Chloe Learey: Strategies to increase child care slots
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Chloe Learey, executive director of the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Brattleboro, and a member of the Building Bright Futures State Advisory Council. The Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce recently named her Entrepreneur of the Year.
In the recent survey by the Child Care Counts Coalition of Windham County employers indicated that challenges around child care create a burden on business. A lack of quality, affordable child care impacts existing business as well as healthy economic development. The shortage of child care spots, especially for infants and toddlers (ages 0 to 3), has been well researched. We cannot afford to ignore this issue if we want our region and our state to attract a vibrant workforce and support thriving communities.
This is not a new issue in Vermont. Twenty years ago, a group called the Child Care Fund of Vermont issued a report titled “A Vermont Employer’s Guide to Child Care Solutions” which offered strategies for employers to consider in order to support employees who juggle the demands of parenting. Today, several organizations have picked up this idea of investing in a variety of projects aimed at supporting child care in Vermont. These initiatives are working to identify statewide opportunities and develop local initiatives to make a difference. While individual employers can develop their own strategies for supporting employees, the issues around child care are larger than any one company, and it will take a coalition to move the needle on some of the biggest challenges we face in maintaining and increasing the child care slots needed to support economic growth.
Challenge #1: There are not enough early educators.
Early care and education are not babysitting. The field has become more professionalized with the need for more qualifications. Right now, there are two local programs that are reducing their available spots for children due to a lack of staff, and one that has a classroom ready to open but cannot find teachers.
Strategy 1: Invest in workforce development.
Investing in workforce development, from creating opportunities for people to get in on the ground floor to subsidizing their education at the college level, addresses this challenge. For instance, the Windham Regional Career Center is sponsoring a course for people interested in getting the baseline qualifications for being able to be hired into a classroom position. “Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education” will run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 19 and could help generate up to 12 potential employees.
Strategy 2: Subsidize post-secondary education.
In a field that boasts some of the lowest wages of any job classification, college credits are a requirement for climbing the early educator career ladder. Supporting people to pursue advanced degrees will make the field more attractive. The United Way of Windham County has a Fund for Quality Early Education that provides resources for a range of activities that help improve the field, including money for professional development. Growing this fund can help more people enter and stay in the profession. This local solution can be adapted to other regions. More broadly, the state could consider some sort of loan forgiveness program or subsidizing the education of students in early education at Vermont state colleges.
Challenge #2: There are not enough slots.
“Stalled at the Start” estimates that 73 percent of infants in Windham County likely will not have access to a regulated program, and people get on waiting lists as soon as they find out they are pregnant.
Strategy: Provide funds to increase infrastructure.
Vermont Birth to 5, an initiative of The Permanent Fund, has created a statewide grant program, “Make Way for Kids,” to give funds towards projects that will increase quality child care slots. This concept could be expanded locally using the Windham County United Way Fund for Quality Early Education as well. So, for instance, if someone considers opening a program out of their home and needs to make some renovations, they could apply to the fund for assistance.
Challenge #3: Child care is too expensive.
Strategy: Increase scholarships and subsidies for families.
One of the conundrums in solving the child care puzzle is how to cover costs of providing the service and pay a wage that attracts a strong workforce without increasing tuition which already costs as much as housing every month. Employers can offer benefits that help alleviate the financial burden such as Flexible Spending Accounts and direct financial assistance such as a child care allowance. The costs of turnover and absenteeism help pay for the investments employers might make in this way. Child Care Fund of Vermont laid out these and other options 20 years ago!
There are concrete steps we can take together to solve the child care puzzle. If all the pieces fall in place, our future workforce gets the strong foundation they need to succeed, our current workforce can participate in the local economy, and our communities will grow and thrive the way we hope.
Healing Mind Body and Spirit: Care for the Caregivers
Are you someone who takes the time to call people, or to hold them in your prayers when you know they are having a hard time? Do you help organize rides for older Friends who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it to worship? Do people often confide in you? Do you feel at ease just being with people when they are struggling, suffering or in pain? Do others describe you as having a “healing”, “soothing” or “calming” presence? Perhaps you serve on your meeting’s Pastoral Care Committee, Ministry and Counsel Committee, or Care and Community Committee, or Friends in the meeting just naturally turn to you when things get “sticky”. You are doing the work of pastoral care. If any of the above seems like it describes you – and you are looking for fellowship with others and an opportunity for connection with the Divine Love that grounds this work- this might be the event for you.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” ― Maya Angelou
New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel is hosting a one-day retreat and workshop of rest and healing for Friends who do the work of pastoral care in their meetings. Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by demands on your time and energy? Come and be recharged in the fellowship of other caregivers. Working in pairs, we will give and receive comfort and healing while honing our skills in providing care for others. We hope that together we might experience the healing that comes from connection with the Spirit and with others who share in similar work, and that we will leave with practices and skills that will help us in the day to day work of healing and support that is so needed in each of our contexts, and in the world. There will be opportunities for fellowship and connection, worship, and sharing about the joys and struggles of our work. We will have the gift of being joined by several Friends with particular gifts to offer, including John Calvi (Putney, VT) who will be leading a portion of the day on energy healing practices.
Saturday April 21, 2018
Westport Meeting (MA)
Registration will be open soon! Please contact Cornelia Parkes (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Clerk of Ministry and Counsel (email@example.com) with any questions.
We hope to see you there!
One small section of the 30 foot inspirational mural created during the Putney Friends Meeting Retreat.
Toward the end of This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, coauthors Mark and Paul Engler argue that Quakers have often acted powerfully as a “prophetic minority” in U.S. history—sometimes to great practical effect. According to the Englers, “Quakers served as the backbone of the movement against slavery in both the United States and Great Britain.” They also note that, “Later on, Quakers would play important roles in the women’s suffrage, civil rights, antiwar, and antinuclear movements.” …
Book review by Steve Chase
To read more click here:
This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First CenturyBy Mark Engler and Paul Engler. Nation Books, 2016. 368 pages. $26.99/hardcover; $15.99/eBook. Toward the end of This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revoltfriendsjournal.org