My Turn: Offer child care for state employees

Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2007

As of late there have been many articles and even VoxBox questions about the state's inability to attract or keep employees and what they can do about it. The most common answer was better pay, which the state employees union promptly did not go for and a vote of a minority of employees agreed to.

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With state employees not getting the raises needed to meet inflation, once more we must save where we can.

We are a two-income family, fairly new to Juneau. I work for the state and my wife works for a state contractor. We have an 8-year-old daughter we do not wish to leave home alone. Rally at Mendenhall River Community School is booked solid (or was when we tried) and charges $2 a minute after 6 p.m. My wife and I travel to work together as we work near each other and have but one car. My wife regularly works overtime and it is more often than not that we would not be able to pick our daughter up until after 6 p.m., or I would have to make multiple trips between the Mendenhall Valley and Juneau. Any version of child care or lack thereof while we work is expensive in either care cost or gas when making multiple trips.

The very thought of a second child is staggering while looking to purchase a home. What do we do with the child when it is normal in the United States for the mother to stay home for only six weeks after the birth?

So we have often lamented that there is no reasonable child care available. With the Nov. 8 Juneau Empire article "For some, child care is out of reach," once more this is made clear. So maybe Gov. Sarah Palin could have her people look at the possibility of offering child care for state employees. If we are not to get a credible raise in pay, then help us stretch the money we do get. Offer child care for your employees so that they can work full time and not have to take time off to deal with children when the school decides to close, or when programs such as Rally have days off even though it is a school day and not a holiday. Let employees visit their newborns during lunch rather than shove them off on strangers all day, five days a week, when they are not even a year old.

Germany has a three-year period when a mother or father can stay home to care for newborns and still have a job when he or she gets back. It is better for the children that way. Studies and in practice in Germany and the U.S. show that businesses offering child care for employees have better retention rates and employee loyalty. It is not only the state that needs to consider this, other businesses and unions do, too. Most families living in Juneau or Alaska at large cannot afford to have only one working adult.

So maybe the state should take the lead, offer daycare and after-school care for state employees (not just Juneau) and in that way show a little dedication to its employees and offer something that would make state employment worth considering or staying in.

• Kyle Lamson lives in Juneau and is an analyst/programmer II for the state of Alaska.

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