Responding to a national crisis in child care, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Westchester County this week to announce federal legislation that would help expand access to high-quality child care services at no cost to student parents enrolled in community colleges and minority-serving institutions.
This comes after a report revealed that one in five college students are raising a child under the age of five while in school, and that many of these parents have trouble finding affordable and high-quality child care.
“Parents shouldn’t have to choose between getting a college degree and affording child care. However, many student parents have trouble finding and affording high-quality child care services, particularly for infants and toddlers,” said Senator Gillibrand while visiting Virginia Marx Children’s Center at Westchester Community College.
The legislation, which is called the Preparing and Resourcing Our Student Parents and Early Childhood Teachers (PROSPECT) Act would create $9 billion in new grant programs to increase access to child care for low-income student parents at minority-serving institutions and community colleges like Westchester Community College.
“The PROSPECT Act is an answer to some very serious challenges: How do we help more of our youngest children get off to the best possible start in life? How do we better prepare students for the good jobs that we want to grow in our community? How do we provide effective support to the child care profession itself, particularly for those caring for infants and toddlers? said Kathy Halas, Executive Director, Child Care Council of Westchester.
“The Business Council of Westchester Foundation has been working with the Child Care Council of Westchester to engage the business community to understand how important it is that Westchester County focus on having safe, affordable and sustainable child care facilities for employees to access. It is a known fact that child care issues is one of the major issues that employees face. Not securing child care has an impact on their daily lives and has an impact on their job performance. If employers are more engaged in this issue it helps them with recruitment and retention,” said Marsha Gordon, President and CEO, The Business Council of Westchester.
Last year the BCW held a Child Care Awareness program so that BCW members could have important information on how their employees can identify safe child care facilities for their children. The BCW is also working to engage developers and property openers to see if they would create new child care facilities in both existing buildings and new buildings.
According to the Child Care Council of Westchester, working parents and students in Westchester have trouble finding reliable, affordable, high-quality child care services. In Westchester County, the average, annual cost of center-based care for an infant is $21,000. The Child Care Council of Westchester also found that lack of access to child care services affects parents’ employment. About 60% of parents in Westchester report that child care issues impact their work and 75% of employers report that child care issues result in absenteeism and productivity loss.