The BCW’s Education Foundation in partnership with the Child Care Council of Westchester this week hosted an important forum focusing on the need for safe, reliable and quality child care, highlighting child care as a vital tool for economic and workforce development.
In addition to the event’s leading keynote speakers, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul also provided valuable insight into how the state is shifting the conversation about child care – which traditionally has been dismissed as a “family problem” – to now becoming a state driver of investment and opportunity.
Hochul, who shared her own personal trials of starting a consulting business as the mother of two children, praised the BCW for leading the way on this important issue.
“Once again Westchester raises the bar. I’m looking at what’s going on in this room, and I now want to see it in every other county,” she said. “Employers need to count on employees showing up, but also, we are losing $4 billion a year by not having women participate in the workforce.”
At the state level, Hochul continued, when businesses come before a Regional Economic Development Council seeking investment, questions are now being asked: What are you doing to address child care for your workers? If you’re a small business, are you working as a collaborative with other local business owners? If you’re a larger business looking to expand, does your new facility included plans for a child care facility?
“We can ask those questions while you are at the table,” she said. “We’ve shifted away from saying to a family, this is your problem, deal with it, to this is a state issue.”
And the shift won’t just benefit parents, who will be less stressed and more productive at the workplace, she said. Kids will be in high-quality day care where they will be stimulated – an important predictor of future success in life and business.
“I want to change the mindset of everyone on this issue and it starts in rooms like this,” Hochul said. “Westchester can be a model for the rest of the state.”
Kathy Halas, executive director of the Child Care Council of Westchester, echoed the importance of quality child care in the early years of brain development.
“Those first three years are critical, and you don’t get them back,” Halas said. “We are really wasting a lot of human potential with the current policy we have. And I thought that all the new research on early brain development, which now isn’t even so new, would really drive a momentous shift in policy change. But it really hasn’t. Not yet.”
“My belief has always been that a real accessible system of high-quality child care in Westchester County could be a deal maker for us in terms of getting people to live here and stay here and prosper here. And that’s what we want to see happen,” Halas continued. “Just as we need reliable transportation, employees to graduate with the right soft skills, affordable housing – we need employees to have a safe and reliable place for their children.”
The forum also included free resources and practical solutions to reduce stress and create opportunities for employees. Keynote presentations included:
- Child Care as an Economic and Workforce Development Opportunity: Kathy Halas, Executive Director of the Child Care Council of Westchester
- What’s at Stake: Jeff Samuelson, retired IBM executive and CCCW Board Member
- Current Challenges: Nicole Masucci, CCCW Director of Family & Employer Services
- Services and Results: Salli Figler, Certified Human Resources Professional
- Solutions in Action: Polly Peace, Executive Director of the Country Children’s Center
“I want to thank all of our incredible speakers for their insights and leadership on this important issue,” said Maria Bronzi, Board Chair of the BCW’s Education Foundation. “The mission of the BCW’s Education Foundation is to help Westchester build healthy communities. Creating sustainable child care for our workforce is one of the Foundation’s key pillars. The Foundation will continue to work with the Child Care Council of Westchester to bring all stakeholders together to work on this important issue.”