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Childcare and The Cliff Effect with Vanessa Freytag

What does childcare have to do with your business? A lot more than many realize. Vanessa Freytag is the President and CEO at 4C for Children and the Board Chair of the Human Services Chamber, and today we’re talking about the Cliff Effect. What is it, and why should you care as an employer — and a human being?

What is the Cliff Effect?

As you progress in your journey as an employee, there’s a point at which the benefits drop off as you earn more. For example, you might receive a raise of $2000 each year, but lose your child care benefits worth $5000 a year. Many employees turn down raises or walk away from their jobs because they literally cannot afford the promotion.

Steps for change

Businesses need to advocate on this issue where these benefits peel off. This has everything to do with decisions in the legislature, and you have an opportunity to weigh in heavily and be heard.

At 4C For Children, they perform three major functions in the community:

  • Help childcare providers improve the educational quality of their programs
  • Administer child nutrition programs, because 90% of brain growth happens between 0 and 5 years, and you have to fuel it with healthy food
  • Work with parents to help them connect to child care that meets their needs, which gets complicated if you’re a low-income family, have limited or no transportation, have off-hours shift work, and so on.

It’s not an issue of whether or not somebody has a desire to work hard; if you don’t have a place for your child to go while you’re working, then you can’t work. It’s not just an education issue, it is absolutely an employment issue.

Where do you see great advancements in early childhood and where we need to go as a community?

Employers want a person who has the right problem solving skills, the ability to work as part of a team, the ability to follow a leader and to be a leader, and the employer can teach them whatever else they need to know. Those skills are called executive function skills, and the basis of it is all formed from the ages of 0 to 5.

We’ve come to understand what’s helping children succeed or not when they get to school, and ultimately, when they get to your door as a potential employee.

What can business leaders do to get involved with this?

By June 30, 2020, any licensed child care program that doesn’t attain the first level of quality cannot serve families on vouchers. As an employer, it’s not just about your future employees, it’s about your employees right this second, because this is their child care.

Businesses need to help make this possible because there are fewer than 22 months to get this done. As employers, it’s easy to think that it’s the employees’ problem, but that’s not true. It is everyone’s problem.

You went through a leadership transition. What led you down the path of where you’re at today?

Vanessa had been at the Women’s Fund and loved her work there, but after about seven years, she realized that she missed working close to the frontlines, where the actual difference happened each day.

When she did the Cliff Effect report, she realized that the lens many people had — to work harder and you’ll get out of poverty — was wrong. Working harder is the very act that pulls you back down. Now she helps businesses understand that this is our issue right this second.

The pieces fell into place, and with 4C For Children, she had the opportunity to take something that was already very good and say, how do I preserve this legacy? And how do I help us figure out where we should go next?



Vanessa Freytag (LinkedIn)

4C For Children