by Dan Yates Not too long ago, we lost a wonderful employee to New Hampshire because she had extended family there and could not find or afford child care in the Brattleboro area. As a long-time employer in Windham County, I’ve seen many employees come and go. A frequently cited reason for leaving? Lack of affordable child care. In Windham County alone, it’s estimated we need to add over 645 child care slots just to meet current demand. That means, across the state there are thousands of families being forced to make difficult choices, like leaving a beloved career or essential paycheck because they don't have a safe, nurturing, affordable place to care for their children. And, in some instances, we’re losing these families – and productive members of our workforce – to our neighboring states.
For Brattleboro Savings and Loan – and for many other employers in the area and throughout Vermont that I’ve spoken to – child care has, in many cases, become the central barrier to employment and attracting new talent.
As bankers, we get to help people. Whether it’s supporting a young family in buying their first house or working with a small business to assist in its expansion, we try to make a difference in our communities to better people’s lives and improve outcomes. When it comes to child care, we’ve sought ways to address the problem, including considering the possibility of forming and operating our own in-house child care.
The reality though, and this is emblematic of the problem, it is a cost prohibitive endeavor and one best left to the early childhood education professionals who do this work day in and day out. We do provide financial support to programs in our region, but this clearly is not sustainable nor the long-term solution to the ongoing child care crisis.
From seeing my own employees leaving because child care was too expensive, to small businesses struggling and in some cases failing because child care (or the lack thereof) was hampering production – the child care crisis is a systemic issue, that needs a statewide systemic solution.
The picture right now is not pretty, but Vermont’s Child Care Campaign has put forth a tangible solution: Significantly increase public investment in our state’s child care system so it’s affordable for families and so early childhood educators are fairly compensated. As a banker, I always look to the numbers and this one is a pretty convincing case: Investing in child care will enable thousands of parents to enter or re-enter the workforce filling thousands of open positions employers can’t currently fill, which will boost our overall economy by millions year over year. Not to mention the thousands of children who will benefit from high-quality early learning opportunities.
I’ve been working in the banking and finance industry for over 40 of years and I can unequivocally say that investing in our state’s child care system is one of the smartest financial decisions the state of Vermont can make.
Right now, in the run up to Election Day on November 8, we have an opportunity to elect candidates who are committed to making this happen. For the first time in the history of our state, Vermont’s Child Care Campaign has developed a list of specific candidates who are dedicated to making long-lasting improvements to our child care system; I urge Vermonters to consider this list of endorsed candidates when at the polls on Election Day.
As an employer, Brattleboro Savings and Loan could not be silent on this crucial issue. Along with more than 150 employers from across sectors and regions, we've endorsed Vermont's Child Care Campaign and we encourage other employers to get involved, stand with us, and take action.
Dan Yates is the President and CEO of Brattleboro Savings and Loan.