Child Care: An Essential Part of Workforce Infrastructure for Otsego County
A virtual roundtable discussion about the importance of early childhood programs
Child care is an essential support for the New York and American workforce. It is a key component of the small business community, and it is facing challenges both new and old. The current public health crisis has illuminated the need to further invest in high-quality, affordable child care in Otsego County and across New York. To discuss this important issue, business leaders, child care providers, Representative Antonio Delgado, and a neuroscientist came together in a roundtable discussion on October 6, 2020. Hosted by Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, the panel discussion facilitated meaningful conversations about improving access to high-quality child care, as a means to both support families and rebuild Otsego County’s economy.
Representative Delgado expressed his devotion to improving access to high-quality child care, explaining that he has taken the time to talk to parents and experts on the ground. “I’m talking to folks about this issue and taking their stories with me back to Washington, so we can figure out how I can be the best advocate on this very issue. I want to know what we’ve been doing, but most importantly, what we can be doing better,” Delgado shared.
Science shows how significant early childhood is, and proves that meaningful investments in child care are beneficial to all. ReadyNation Brain Science Speakers Bureau member Sloka Iyengar, Ph.D. discussed the “rapid changes” that happen in early childhood. “Children are very affected by stress,” she explained, “but there are things that can be done to make sure that children grow up resilient.” She noted that an important and long-lasting way to ensure young children “bounce back” from the stress and uncertainty is by implementing high-quality child care programs. “We can really see the incredible maturation a child’s brain undergoes from three to fourteen months. With this information, we can build programs that help children and their families.”
Discussing inequities in education and care is an important part of any discussion of child care in Otsego County and across New York. Fannie Glover, Director of Equity and Inclusion at New York’s Early Care and Learning Council, spoke next, bringing up an important conversation about racial inequities in New York education. “COVID came along and exposed a lot of inequity, but especially in our educational system,” Glover said, “So when we look at the dollars that are being cut, they’re taking place in the hardest-hit communities.” Glover emphasized that discussion of child care reform cannot take place without acknowledging the disparate struggles of Black and Brown children. “If we put our heads together and take a stab at this thing,” she said optimistically, “I believe that we can make this even better than before.”
Child care providers are doing everything they can to provide their invaluable services to working families in Otsego. “We make ends meet the best we can,” said Amber Thompson, Owner/Director of County Kids Childcare Center. “We want to make sure we’re affordable, accessible, and comforting to our parents,” Thompson added. Rebecca Schultz, Executive Director of The Brookwood School, detailed challenges she has faced in retaining qualified early educators due to low compensation across the field. Chris Koenig, President & CEO of GreenFields, jumped in, expressing similar struggles in maintaining and supporting staff. Angella Lynch, Group Family Day Care Provider and Board Member of the Richfield Springs Community Center, also voiced concern about the lack of access to quality child care for families in her community as the only licensed provider in Richfield Springs.
The clear takeaway is that access to high-quality and affordable child care is critical to the present and future workforce in Otsego County and beyond. Significant federal investments in both a child care stabilization fund to help child care providers operate safely, and increased investment in CCDBG to assist working families to afford quality care, is essential. Those investments will play an integral role in helping the county, state, and country heal economically and emotionally.
A full video of the event may be found below.
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