State asks for public input on affordable childcare programs

VERMONT — The Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High-Quality, Affordable Child Care is calling for public input as it assembles a report about improving access to high-quality childcare.
It will take feedback from average people, as well as those involved in professional childcare, at five community forums: on July 25 the commission will be in St. Johnsbury, Burlington and Barre and on July 26 in Rutland and Brattleboro.
Almost half of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need childcare do not have access to any regulated early care and learning programs. Of those that do need care, almost 80 percent do not have access to high-quality programs, according to public awareness and engagement campaign Let’s Grow Kids’ “Stalled at the Start” report released in May.
Let’s Grow Kids is an initiative of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children.
National and statewide attention has also spurred incentives to tackle this issue. The challenges to childcare have come up in the presidential race, and recent national polling has shown public demand for governmental action in childcare efforts.
Recent statewide polling has also shown a growing majority of Vermonters who believe the state needs to do more to provide high-quality, affordable child care to families that cannot otherwise afford it.
The Blue Ribbon Commission was formed in recognition of the challenge a lack of access to childcare poses for Vermonters. This lack of access forces not only families with all parents in the workforce to make tough choices, but also affects Vermont’s economy as childcare challenges make it difficult for businesses to maintain a stable workforce.
The lack of access to affordable childcare also poses a problem for providers. While many parents struggle to afford the tuition of childcare programs, childcare providers often struggle to stay in business, as they cannot charge the real costs of offering a quality program.
In addition, childcare is crucial to the child’s brain development. Ninety percent of the brain is developed in the first five years of a child’s life, according to experts. Further, experiences during these five years are crucial to the child’s foundation for future successes in school, relationships and life.
In order to better understand and address these challenges, the commission is hosting public forums across the state to hear from children, parents, providers and business people involved. The commission wants to hear from Vermonters regarding access to high-quality childcare: the community’s wants and needs, the government’s responsibilities and what should be done to make childcare more affordable in the state.
Specifically, the commission wants to hear more from Vermonters on the following three questions:
1. What would help you the most with respect to accessing high-quality childcare?
2. What are the responsibilities of Vermont to help ensure all Vermonters have access to high-quality child care?
3. What should we do to make accessible, high-quality child care more affordable in Vermont?
The two forums closest to Addison County are in Burlington and Rutland. The former will be held at the Champlain Senior Center, 241 N. Winooski Ave. in Burlington on July 25 from 5–6:30 p.m. The latter will be held at the Leahy Community Education Center at Rutland Regional Medical Center, 160 Allen St., Rutland, in Conference rooms B and C from 5:30–7 p.m.
Registration and more information available at www.letsgrowkids.org/child-care-community-forums.

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