Earlier this month, NCECF Executive Director Muffy Grant presented at the NC Chamber’s Education and Workforce Conference, showcasing why employers should care about our state and nation’s child care crisis and highlighting how workplace supports like paid leave or accommodations for pregnant workers can help North Carolina remain America’s Top State for Business.
The conference, held August 11 in Durham, also featured NC Chamber Foundation President Meredith Archie, NC Sec. of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders, Sen. Sydney Batch, Sen. Jim Burgin, Rep. Ashton Clemmons, Rep. John Torbett and Jaimie Francis, VP of Policy & Programs for the U.S. Chamber, among others. The purpose of the event was to convene the state’s leaders in education, business, government and nonprofit to share observations and insights into current employment and workforce challenges, and to discuss solutions for securing an innovative and diverse workforce to ensure our state’s competitiveness.
“The first 2,000 days are a critical window for brain development. Positive, high quality environments and relationships with nurturing adults are necessary to building brains that are ready to learn — especially considering that a child enters kindergarten with 85 percent of their total brain volume,” Grant said.
Third grade reading is a proxy for child and family well being and an indicator of future success, yet just 49 percent of white children in NC are reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade, and just 20 percent of Black children, 23 percent of Hispanic children and 16 percent of American Indian children are meeting the same benchmark, Grant said.
“To ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, we must recognize that children live in the context of their families and communities,” Grant said. “Families have changed. Less than four percent of NC families have one parent who stays at home full time to care for children. Parents and caregivers are passing up work opportunities, switching jobs, quitting and interrupting their education.”
Child care access is a large piece of the puzzle for keeping parents in the workforce. Right now, quality, affordable and equitable child care is inaccessible to most parents, and the business model for child care defies the theory of supply and demand, Grant said.
The good news is that employers can help by:
- providing workplace supports to help parents meet their family and job responsibilities, including: stipends or vouchers, flexible spending accounts, contributions to child care payments, child care referrals and more.
- supporting sustainable investments in families and the child care industry, such as:
- public private child care partnerships, and
- child care tax credits for employers and for families.