Indiana is losing billions of dollars annually from a lack of access to high-quality child care and education. This is negatively affecting businesses and families in communities throughout the state. Change must happen. We must come together as leaders, employers, parents and educators to create solutions that will help our state thrive.
As both the executive director of early childhood education for Ambassador Enterprises and a mom to four young boys, I understand the importance of providing affordable, high-quality learning environments for young children that help create a foundation for opportunity and success later in life.
According to Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child, healthy development in the “early years,” particularly from birth to age 3, provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities and successful parenting of the next generation. In those early years, it is estimated that nearly 1 million new neural connections are happening every second. A high-quality early learning experience can help foster and enrich these connections, supporting the development of a young child's brain.
We need to prioritize the development of children and provide support for working parents.
The negative impact of lack of access to child care is widespread and hindering economic development in Indiana. Research by Indiana University Public Policy Institute in June 2018 found that there is a $1.8?billion direct cost to employers and a $1.1 billion loss in economic activity every year as a direct result of lack of access to child care.
Businesses that employ parents of young children are adversely affected – 45% of working parents report they are absent at least once a year as a result of child care issues, and 65% report that their work schedules are affected by child care challenges nearly eight times per year on average. Across the United States, employers lose almost $3 billion collectively each year stemming from child care-related situations involving working parents.
Currently, only 40% of the children in Indiana who require child care are enrolled in a program of some kind. Employers need to understand how these challenges affect their employees so they can offer family-friendly policies that allow them to recruit and retain talent. According to a September 2016 study by Indiana University researchers titled “The Economic Impacts of Investing in Early Childhood Education in Indiana,” for every dollar invested into early childhood education, the return can be as much as $4, reducing the costs of special education and social services, lowering crime rates and increasing post-secondary attainment.
At Ambassador Enterprises, we are focused on creating a lasting, positive impact in our community by actively engaging with leaders, companies and organizations that value purpose, people and performance. We know an investment in young children is an investment in our future and an investment in building a better community.
Please join me, Ambassador Enterprises, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and many other companies and organizations on Nov. 7 at the Indiana Early Learning Summit for Economic Development as we come together to collaborate and address the issues surrounding the lack of access to high-quality early child care and education in Indiana.
Karyn Tomkinson is executive director of early childhood for Ambassador Enterprises in Fort Wayne.