Helping our children achieve great futures

Source: Dividends of a Great Start: Regional Economic Impacts of Conditions Affecting Children Birth to Five Years. The study was commissioned by the Great Start Traverse Bay/Manistee Collaborative using a grant from Michigan’s Early Childhood Investment Corporation.

The early years from birth to five is a critical time in the life of a child. The brain has the capacity to form more new neurological connections at this time than at any other phase of development. Studies prove that 90% of the brain’s architecture is built and most of the foundation for language, social behavior, problem solving ability and emotional health is created in the first five years.

When we “get it right” for young children, we set them up for lifetime success. If we don’t, a lifetime of fixes can still lead to poor results. Parents, educators, and communities can spend time, energy and tax dollars in steadily increasing amounts without being able to recreate what was possibly in the first years of life.

Because so much brain and personality development happens in the earliest years of life, investments made in young children yield huge rewards, including real economic gains. Studies conducted throughout Michigan and the United States over the last 60 years have shown that providing early learning experiences, adequate health care, supportive social and emotional environments, and other positive inputs saves money on social costs, improves the workforce, delivers greater productivity, and enhances regional economies.

The information pulled from the Traverse Bay/Manistee Collaborative study effectively communicates the critical issues that parents, business leaders, and the community is currently facing. In the Improving Workplace Productivity section, the study articulates the direct impact of work and family life. Specifically, the section examines the work place and how employers and business policies impact the earliest years of life for their employees’ children.

As many parents and business leaders are aware, the need for childcare is widespread. Working parents with young children lack quality childcare choices through much of Michigan. In some areas, there just is no child care at all. In many others, child care does not include infant care, after hours care, sick child care, or many other services that allow an employee to consistently show up for and be productive at work. As a result, some highly qualified workers stay out of the workforce while others are distracted. Absenteeism and turnover are higher as a result.

A couple examples of support to parents in the workplace include:

n Allow flexible scheduling and flex time so that working parents can fulfill care giving obligations.

n Provide child care resource and referral information to employees by contacting the Great Start Regional Resource Center Great Start Connect at greatstartforkids.org/connect.

By supporting parents in the workplace, employers will see higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced turnover, and higher quality work. In turn, employees with access to supportive family programs are more likely to be satisfied with their job, to be loyal, and will go the extra mile to help the company succeed.

The Great Start Collaborative of Mason, Lake, and Oceana Counties has begun inviting focus groups together to discuss what businesses in Mason, Lake and Oceana Counties are currently practicing as well as what the needs of employees with families are.

To be apart of upcoming Family Friendly Business discussions, contact Megan Payment, Business Liaison, meganp@ludington.org.