Grit & Gratitude

Grit & Gratitude

Happy 2018!

I am moved by the generous contributions so many of you made to the Permanent Fund at the end of 2017. You have been loyal readers, advocates and supporters, closely following the progress we’ve made together imparting the importance of high-quality, accessible and affordable child care for our beloved state. I am deeply grateful, and inspired, that so many of you chose to invest financially in our collective fight for Vermont’s children and families.

And, you are not alone in your investment.

We began the new year with a trip to Chicago to meet with several leading national funders and advocates of early education and child development.  National leaders validated the approach we’re taking to achieve statewide systemic change for delivering high-quality, affordable early care and learning, and we were struck once again by how fortunate we are to be tackling this issue in a state like Vermont where leaders know how to collaborate across sectors, bust silos and identify creative solutions to effect large-scale challenges. These Vermont values again stood out to us during meetings with venture philanthropists and business leaders in Boston, who acknowledged our insight and determination to find local solutions for urgent national challenges. Thanks to your forward-thinking support, we are making a national impression as a state with the grit to get it done for our children and families.

In the coming year, our systems-building work will take a community-by-community approach to capacity building, sustainability and advocacy. We will create 500 new, high-quality child care slots throughout the state, build shared services networks that strengthen quality and sustainability for child care programs and expand our advocacy work in the field to make early care and education a top issue in state and local elections this fall. Simultaneously, we will continue to draw national attention to the progress we’ve made together, learn and adapt as we go, and promote Vermont as a leader in this ambitious fight to achieve our mission by 2025.

Please read on to learn more about the critical challenge facing Vermont and the country, and thank you for being part of the solution.

With gratitude,

Rick Davis

President of the Board of Directors

Davis: Vermont’s workforce challenge and gender equality in the workplace

Policymakers and Vermonters of all political persuasions are worried about the economic impacts of Vermont’s aging population and shrinking workforce. Our working-age population—the vital group that acts as our economic engine—keeps declining. Meanwhile, baby boomers will soon be aging out of the workforce. In order for Vermont to attract and retain the skilled workforce our economy needs to thrive, we need to make sure all Vermonters have an equal opportunity to contribute to our economy. Yet, Vermont women are continually forced to leave careers and drop out of the workforce because they cannot afford or find high-quality child care.

Women still earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men and Vermont’s child care shortage makes this situation worse because women are more likely to leave their jobs when families can’t access child care. In fact, a recent national study found that among highly-qualified women who off-ramped from their career, 74% reported child care as their trigger factor. For highly-qualified men, only 26% reported child care as their trigger factor.

Women should not be forced to choose between a career and parenthood; we must do whatever we can to make both possible.

As president of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, I’m lucky to employ a talented, committed team that includes highly skilled women who are parents of young children. These women are critical to the Permanent Fund’s success; we simply can’t afford to lose these dedicated and passionate employees. That’s why the Permanent Fund offers family-friendly policies, including paid family leave and child care scholarships.

Offering family-friendly policies is one way the Permanent Fund is working to address gender equality in the workplace. We know this approach makes a difference because our employees with young children continue to be focused and invaluable members of the team. Still, Vermont’s critical shortage of high-quality, affordable child care places an undue burden on families, more often falling on women. Almost half of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to any regulated child care programs and nearly 80% don’t have access to high-quality programs. This problem is keeping too many Vermont women from staying and thriving in the workforce.

A woman who feels forced to leave her career because she can’t afford child care is losing more than her annual salary; she’s often also losing health insurance, the ability to save for retirement, and possible wage increases over time. This cycle perpetuates gender inequality in the workplace, which ultimately hurts our economy.

Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, recently visited the US and was interviewed by NPR’s Ari Shapiro. While discussing issues related to economic development, Shapiro wondered “if something as simple as child care makes a big difference,” noting child care can be difficult to find in America, but is very robust in Norway. Prime Minister Solberg responded, “Yes. We don’t want to choose between career and motherhood. That means you have to build out a helping system for the family and the benefit of that is economic growth.”

There are many reasons why Vermont should invest in high-quality and affordable child care. Breaking down barriers to careers for women and allowing women to continue to be major contributors to a skilled workforce and a strong economy is one of them. Empowering the other half of our economic engine is an obvious solution to Vermont’s workforce crisis.

Rick Davis is CEO of Davis Companies and president of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure all Vermont children birth to five have access to high-quality, affordable early care and learning by 2025.

Linking Climate Change and Early Childhood Development

Linking Climate Change and Early Childhood Development

I was greatly honored when I heard I would receive the Vermont Lifetime Achievement Award from the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD). But I was surprised when I realized I would be accepting this award during the organization’s second Summit on Vermont’s Climate Economy. What would someone from an organization that has made high-quality early childhood education its mission say to a group of climate change advocates? After learning the Summit’s theme was “Ideas to Action,” I understood the parallels between the Permanent Fund’s work and the climate summit. The two are more closely related than one might think.

children at play on beach

Climate science and brain science: Neither is rocket science

Climate science is credible, reliable and offers a clear picture of what contributes to our changing climate and how we can reverse the trend. The brain science is equally compelling, irrefutable and offers a clear blueprint for a child’s healthy brain development and what contributes to unhealthy development. Amazingly, the brain science shows us that 80% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of three—telling us that we must act in the very early years to get it right.

Inaction or missteps will lead to serious consequences

There are serious consequences for Vermont if we don’t reverse the effects of climate change. More extreme weather events (think, Tropical Storm Irene) are an example. In early childhood, our extreme weather event is represented by the dramatic increase in special education costs, which have increased by $137 million, a doubling in the last 15 years, while enrollment has decreased by 20,000 students. Early identification of developmental delays and improved nutrition can help. We must work to identify at-risk children earlier—from birth to five—so we can start services earlier when the developing brain and body are most receptive to these interventions. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, starting services earlier can in some cases reduce the need for costly services during the school years or eliminate the need for them altogether.

We’re on an unsustainable path

With climate change, melting glaciers and rising waters tell us that we are not on a sustainable path. With early childhood development, nearly 50% of our kids are showing up at kindergarten “not ready to learn” and it’s likely that same 50% are not going on to college. Like other rural states, Vermont has one of the highest rates in the nation of kids not going to college! This is not sustainable. With an aging demographic in Vermont, we cannot afford to give up on any of our children. We need all of them in a trained workforce contributing to a healthy economy.

Time is of the essence: Act now or pay (much more) later

With climate change, we cannot afford to wait—we have to act now. The same is true of early childhood development in Vermont—it is no longer a case of whether or not we can afford to make these strategic investments in the early years….we cannot afford not to make them. We must act now or we will pay dearly later. We know that the investment we make during the earliest years of life (from birth to age five) will provide a much greater return than any dollars we invest later.

One difference between climate change and early childhood

While the work Vermont is doing on climate change is extremely important and we SHOULD be a leader in addressing this issue, the effects of climate change are largely influenced by the actions of other states and other countries. The environmental and economic impacts of climate change pose global challenges. With early childhood development in Vermont, we have full control of our destiny. By following the science, making smart, strategic investments in the early years and acting swiftly, we will improve outcomes for all our children and create a healthier Vermont.

Building stronger communities

While on the surface we may seem like different organizations, both the VCRD and the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children are working toward the same end: building stronger, more sustainable, Vermont communities. The success of both organizations relies on bringing great ideas to the table, pulling together the right people and organizations and developing collaborations and partnerships to turn “Ideas to Action.”


Comparison Table between Climate Change and Child Care

Click on the image to download a PDF file.

Education Begins at Birth

Education Begins at Birth

Many of you have heard me talk about the brain science and the latest research that tells us how crucial the first five years of a child’s life are. So why when we talk about education, do we tend to think about the public education system, K through 12?

It tells me that we still have much work to do to educate Vermonters that education does indeed begin at birth and that those professionals teaching our youngest children are doing very important work —which brings me to the reason for this blog post.

Recognizing the Work of Our Children’s First Teachers

Permanent_Fund_EEOYaward_250I’m excited to announce nominations are open for the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children second Early Educator of the Year Award. Through this award, we are proud to recognize the unsung heroes—the childcare professionals—who work so hard for our children. After all, besides parents, these individuals are a child’s first teacher. This award honors individuals who have truly gone above and beyond to positively impact the lives of children and has been a valuable resource for families.

The top two finalists will be honored at the October 2016 VAEYC Conference, where the top finalist will be announced as the Early Educator of the Year and will receive $5,000 and all expenses paid to attend the VAEYC Conference as well as one national conference. The second finalist will receive a $1,000 award and all expenses paid to attend the VAEYC Conference.

Early Educator of the Year nomination

Early Educator of the Year Eligibility

In the second year of this award, we are accepting nominations for an outstanding center- or school-based childcare professional who has demonstrated a commitment to quality early childhood education. The award alternates between honoring home-based and center-based programs each year.

To be eligible for this year’s award, a center- or school based childcare professional must have at least four stars in the Vermont STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS). Nominees must also have been providing care for at least three years, and must currently have infants and toddlers enrolled in their program.

Award Nomination and Review Process

Individuals may self-nominate or can be nominated by others, though family members may not submit a nomination. The nomination period is now open but will close on May 1, 2016. Those nominated will be notified and must complete and submit an application to the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children by May 31, 2016 to be considered for the award.

An award selection committee comprised of leaders in early education and child development will review all award applications and choose two finalists. Committee members are:

  • Laurel Bongiorno (Champlain College);
  • Mitch Golub (Vermont Achievement Center);
  • Bethany Hale (Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children);
  • Reeva Murphy (Child Development Division);
  • Melissa Riegel-Garrett (Agency of Education); and
  • A representative from Building Bright Futures.

Nominate an Early Educator Today!

We hope that you—parents, folks from the early childhood community and others—will take time to consider the childcare professionals you know. Is there someone that stands out from the rest and truly exemplifies excellence in the teaching of young children? Nominate someone today!

Early Educator of the Year nomination

Dr. Alan Guttmacher Joins the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children

Dr. Alan Guttmacher

Dr. Alan Guttmacher (click photo for print resolution image)

Middlebury, VT – The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children announced the addition of Dr. Alan Guttmacher to their team as senior advisor. He will lead the Permanent Fund’s work to connect the child care and health care communities to help improve the health and well-being of Vermont children and families. Dr. Guttmacher comes to the Permanent Fund after retiring from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he worked as the director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“The Permanent Fund is doing such great work in the early childhood arena; I’m thrilled to be part of the team,” said Guttmacher. “We have a tremendous opportunity to create a national model for strengthening the working relationship between the child care and medical communities and improve the health and well-being of Vermont children and families.”

Before joining the NIH in 1999, Guttmacher was an active physician in the Vermont medical community and taught in the University of Vermont College of Medicine for more than a decade. While serving as director of the Department of Pediatrics’ Vermont Regional Genetics Center and Pregnancy Risk Information Service from 1987 to 1999, Guttmacher co-founded the Vermont Newborn Screening Program and served as its medical director from 1989 to 1999. He was also the founding director of the Vermont Human Genetics Initiative, the nation’s first statewide effort to engage the public in the discussion on the NIH Human Genome Project’s ethical, legal, and social implications.

In 1999, Guttmacher left Vermont to work at the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH, which was leading the Human Genome Project. He went on to fill various roles there, including serving as the deputy director and acting director of the institute. In 2010, Guttmacher was appointed as director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the central research arm for NIH research in pediatric health and development, maternal health, reproductive health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and rehabilitation medicine.

“We are honored to have Alan join the Permanent Fund,” said Rick Davis, president and co-founder of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children. “His extensive medical background in pediatric health and genetics makes him uniquely suited to head this effort and collaboration.”

Guttmacher graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. He completed his fellowship in medical genetics at Harvard Medical School and the Children’s Hospital in Boston before joining the University of Vermont College of Medicine.



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