On December 17, NJ Spotlight hosted a virtual roundtable event, “Child Care in New Jersey: A Key to the State’s Economic Recovery”, to discuss the critical role that child care plays in New Jersey’s economy and every sector of life.
Sponsored by the Turrell Fund and Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), the roundtable was moderated by John Mooney, NJ Spotlight News Executive Diretor and featured a keynote by Art Rolnick, Associate Economist at the University of Minnesota and a member of the ReadyNation Advisory Board, as well as five panelists from across the spectrum of direct services, advocacy, and state government: Winifred Smith-Jenkins, Senior Director, Zadie’s Nurturing Den; Cecilia Zalkind, President & CEO, ACNJ; Tim Sullivan, CEO, New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Peter T. Rosario, President & CEO, Ocean County YMCA; and Carole Johnson, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
Panelists emphasized that the lack quality and affordable child care has affected children and their families, businesses and their employees, and the state’s recovery as a whole, especially following COVID-19.
The panel also covered the state of child care – “Pre-pandemic, child care operated on razor-thin margins… Operating during this pandemic is almost indescribable. Enrollment is down and I think that’s across the board,” said Winifred Smith-Jenkins; immediate needs for the child care sector – “One [way to help] is to pay higher child care rates. Two, to expand eligibility for parents,” said Ceil Zalkind; the role of the business community – “We’re also trying to build into what we do [with corporate tax credits] as a core economic development,” said Tim Sullivan; and the future of child care in NJ – “My vision for the future of child care is that it is not unlike health care… where no one can move to the next level of government without being asked about what their plan is for health care,” said Commissioner Johnson.
In partnership with ACNJ and the New Jersey Association of the Education for Young Children, the Turrell Fund and The Nicholson Foundation launched #ReimagineChildCare to encourage policymakers, business leaders, parents, and communities to reimagine our current system and help New Jersey thrive for years to come. The roundtable echoed these sentiments and more, reaffirming that supporting families is supporting a stronger New Jersey.