Opinion: Important early-age childcare deserves to be funded

As a parent and child care center director, I understand the challenges Vermont parents face in finding high-quality care for their children. We know every child deserves a strong start to life. The first 5 years provide the best opportunity to support their healthy development, laying the foundation for life.
While it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide the best environment and opportunities for their children, times have changed and we know that more than 70 percent of Vermont’s children under age 6 live in households where all parents are in the labor force. This means these kids are under the supervision of childcare providers while their parents work. Currently in Vermont, parents struggle to find care that is both affordable and accessible. At the same time, childcare providers are struggling to pay staff a livable wage while providing high-quality care for the kids under their supervision. This is a big problem.
I support the work of Let’s Grow Kids and the Blue Ribbon Commission to solve this statewide challenge. One step in the right direction is Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP), which provides tuition assistance to families who meet certain financial, work or education criteria, making childcare and early learning programs more affordable.
But the program is seriously underfunded. CCFAP tuition assistance rates have only increased 3 percent since 2008, leaving a serious gap between how much assistance the state will provide and how much quality care actually costs. This results in parents paying more than they can afford or providers receiving less than they need to support high-quality child care.
Now is the time to act. We must invest in the early years. Join me in supporting the Let’s Grow Kids campaign to provide high-quality, affordable child care for all Vermont children who need it.
Sarah Rougier

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