Participants included personnel from the United Way, Department of Social Services, Department of Health, CiTi BOCES, Oswego County Opportunities, SUNY Oswego, Oswego County Employment and Training, Constellation, and many others.
They discussed how critical issues such as behavioral and mental health, poor health outcomes, high-risk behaviors, and a lack of a support system have impacted their ability to attract and retain employees.
“Over the past few years, children have become resilient to adjust mentally and emotionally to ever changing routines and expectations at home and at school,” noted Dr. Vilmo Junio. “We, as small business leaders/employers in our community, can help solve the complex problems that affect our children and their families.”
They considered what support could be provided to their employees, such as the reimbursement of childcare, employer-assisted savings plans, or other ways to compensate employees. On-site childcare, flexible schedules/hybrid work options, and Family First policies were brainstormed during the listening session to help develop effective employee retention strategies.
Achieving a better understanding of the challenges faced by children and parents is crucial, according to CiTi BOCES Director of Migrant Education Paul Gugel. “For example, even when funding is available for such things as employer stipends or vouchers, there aren’t enough childcare providers to meet the need.”
The OCECA asked the group what their vision is for a well-resourced community with all the funds and commitment needed. The employers agreed that the ideal environment is a safe home and community. A special connection was recognized between children’s success and a sense of belongingness.
Lastly, the group was asked to list several long-term benefits if their vision was successfully implemented. They concluded that care providers would be valued and supported, there would be no stigma in using services, and overall community and quality of life would improve.
CiTi BOCES Instructional Support Services Staff Development Specialist Carri Waloven announced that OCECA is receiving American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) County funding. The funds will support a full-time coordinator to implement the day-to-day operations of the Oswego County Early Childhood Alliance. The coordinator will support the OCECA Executive Committee and sub-committees to achieve the goals and objectives of the Alliance.
Waloven said this community employer forum was a significant first step, but the work has just begun. “There is a lot more to this than just childcare. We want to continue to engage stakeholders in our community to understand their needs so we can all work together to build a stable, comprehensive, effective system of care for children ages birth to five, so their families can thrive in Oswego County.”