News

Ms. Sweet Goes to Washington
The Chamberís Work in Expanding Access to Child Care
Published Thursday, December 19, 2019 12:00 pm

Believe it or not, the Metro Chamber’s work on employer supported child care is getting noticed nationally. Participation in a recent child care symposium yielded an unexpected result: an invitation to the White House.

A few months ago, Ananda Sweet, the Metro Chamber’s VP of Public Policy and Workforce Development, traveled to Sacramento to participate in a panel discussion on Supporting Working Families. The October 29 event, put on by the Office of Child Care (part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services), was attended by state and federal officials and featured a series of roundtables on improving access to high quality child care.

Ananda’s presentation on the Innovative Solutions panel focused on the work we’ve been doing locally over the past year and a half: convening major Sonoma County employers, community leaders and public officials in roundtable discussions on employer supported child care; bringing in child care experts and providers to talk about implementations; gathering data to make the business case and show the return on investment; and working closely with the City of Santa Rosa to keep the need for expanding child care options top of mind when crafting new ordinances and making policy decisions.

The presentation was well received, and several people approached her for follow-on conversations. But imagine Ananda’s surprise when on November 15 she received an email with an invitation to the White House Summit on Child Care and Paid Leave: Supporting America's Working Families.

Fast forward to the afternoon of December 11, the first stop on Ms. Sweet’s D.C. trip was at Congressman Mike Thompson’s office. The meeting with Representative Thompson and education policy staff served to update the Congressman on our efforts, discuss current paid family leave legislation and reaffirm our shared priority of supporting working families. “Of course, it’s primarily about the kids and families,” says Ananda, “but it’s also a shared priority because it enhances the stability of our current workforce, improves health and education outcomes, increases self-sufficiency and economic prosperity.” As the meeting wound down there was agreement to stay in touch to provide support, whether through upcoming legislation or other needs.

The next day was the White House summit where the Administration introduced their principles for child care reform. Governors, U.S. Senators and U.S. Congresspeople from around the county spoke about how early child care and education impact their states, communities and the country. CEOs from several major national corporations spoke about the economic benefits to supporting working families and the impact on the current and future workforce when those supports are not in place. And President Trump and Ivanka Trump each spoke about the importance of policies to support children and families as well as the White House’s openness to exploring new incentives for businesses looking to provide child care benefits for their employees.

But perhaps the most fruitful connection was made after the summit when Julia Barfield, Senior Manager for Policy and Programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, invited Ananda to talk about the details of the Metro Chamber’s work to increase access to child care. The U.S. Chamber was very impressed with what we’ve accomplished in the last year and a half, and suggested working collaboratively through the U.S. Chamber Foundation on employer toolkits for on-site child care, publishing a case study on our employer supported child care efforts and perhaps piloting programs that could help facilitate and accelerate adoption of employer supported child care.

And of course, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber couldn’t do this work without the partnership of First 5 Sonoma County, 4Cs Sonoma County, the Child Care Planning Council, and so many Early Childhood Education providers and champions who work diligently to serve the children and families of our community. We’ll keep you updated as the Metro Chamber works with our many partners to expand options and access to child care.


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