The gym at the ALC served as the perfect setting for the important roundtable discussion taking place. You could see bikes against the walls, balls and toys waiting for the preschoolers in the ALC’s Early Adventures Child Care Program to use on a rainy day. Seated around the table were local child care professionals, State and City government officials and candidates all focused on one topic; affordable child care in our city. The roundtable discussion was coordinated by the NH Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy who work to secure policy that will help New Hampshire families and build stronger communities. Child care is just one focus for the group, but one they feel is instrumental in building a strong and stable economy in New Hampshire. As their website explains, “Skyrocketing prices are putting quality child care out of reach for too many New Hampshire families. As a result, thousands of Granite Staters are forced to choose between staying home to raise their children and joining the workforce or keeping their jobs. Increasing access to affordable and quality child care or early education keeps families working, which helps strengthen our state economy.”
With affordable child care at the center of the discussion, Jessica Sugrue, child care training specialist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, opened and moderated the event. She quickly turned to the other panelists, including the ALC’s own Jane Marquis, Director of the Early Adventures Program, to share their thoughts with the decision makers in the room. Marquis noted after the event that she felt the roundtable was important and successful because, despite having a room full of people who all believe in the importance of early childhood education, many outside the profession simply “didn’t realize how prohibitive childcare issues are on both families and providers.” She went on to note that many of the candidates in the room asked great questions, which allowed her and the other professionals to present and explain the impact of programs such as Universal Pre-K. Marquis was especially excited to share her thoughts on Universal Pre-K with Nashua Mayor James Donchess, who attended the event. It is her hope the Nashua School District will embrace the idea in the near future.
The statistics are staggering and must feel overwhelming to young families trying to build a future. Key statistics can be found on the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy’s website (http://www.familyfriendlyeconomy.org/) and highlight some of these important facts; “In 2014, Congress reauthorized the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which aims to ensure the quality, health and safety of children in child care while making it easier for families in need to get and keep child care assistance, however, the law comes with no guarantee of federal funds or state compliance. From 2006 to 2013 alone, approximately 2,100 children in New Hampshire lost child care assistance and roughly 10% of children were cared for by unlicensed child care providers.” These trends are troubling. While the problem wasn’t solved in the gym that morning, events like this increase awareness and allow experts to share ideas and craft solutions that can make a difference. The employees at the Adult Learning Center are proud to be leaders in the conversation about how to make positive change around this very important subject.