<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Monday,  July 15 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Clark County News

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez hosts roundtable with first responders to discuss child care access

Lack of child care can make recruiting women more difficult

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 20, 2024, 5:30pm
2 Photos
U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, wearing plaid, convened a roundtable about child care with Clark County first responders at Vancouver City Hall on Thursday morning. The event focused on the needs of first responders, such as police and firefighters, who work odd shifts.
U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, wearing plaid, convened a roundtable about child care with Clark County first responders at Vancouver City Hall on Thursday morning. The event focused on the needs of first responders, such as police and firefighters, who work odd shifts. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

First responders face exceptional difficulties accessing child care. In Clark County only about 23.59 percent of child care needs are being met, according to the state Department of Children, Youth & Families.

Many first responders work swing shifts or odd hours. Some are required to be on call. Others travel long distances for work.

“There’s just a lot of variability,” said Vancouver Police Detective Tanya Wollstein. “And the need for child care is overwhelming.”

Wollstein was speaking at a roundtable event Thursday hosted by Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, at Vancouver City Hall.

Perez convened multiple first responders with the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver Fire Department to discuss the challenges of child care access and potential solutions. The event was moderated by Vancouver Councilor Sarah Fox.

“Our conception of what it means to support first responders needs to evolve and reflect a fuller picture of modern parenthood,” Perez said. “I’m really excited to hear from you all about your families and your situation, and what the hustle has been like to find child care and how it’s impacted your roles, and how I can be useful.”

Wollstein said many younger officers often leave the force because of child care constraints.

“We did a lot of research into it and found that 20 percent of mothers would reenter the workforce if they were able to find child care options,” she said. “That’s a huge percentage of people that we could bring to the table, both in policing and in fire, if we could provide that.”

She added that Southwest Washington’s new regional law enforcement training academy has improved the situation, but that there is still work to be done.

“I feel like we’re halfway there,” she said. “This is a huge issue, as far as talking about what’s hurting retention.”

The Vancouver Police Department is working to bring more women onto the force and is participating in the 30×30 campaign, which aims to increase the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30 percent by 2030.

Currently, women make up only 12 percent of sworn officers and 3 percent of police leadership in the United States.

Lack of child care access makes meeting that goal difficult, said Assistant Police Chief Kristine Buist.

“It doesn’t solely affect women, but it does make it harder to meet,” Buist said. “Women bring such an amazing element to law enforcement that I think we need to do everything we can to enable women to come and join us and have this great career.”

Perez said that she wants to learn from the first responder’s experiences to help her advance legislation that will make an impact. She added that she has experienced the difficulties of accessing quality, affordable child care and would have to drive long distances or bring her son into work at the auto repair and machine shop that she owns with her husband.

“(Lack of child care) really is a barrier to coming into law enforcement,” Wollstein said. “It’s a huge need, and we’re just so happy that you’re here and interested in the topic.”

Perez introduced the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act to make it easier and more affordable for parents to access childcare, and has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to help families facing rising costs of care.

Stay informed on what is happening in Clark County, WA and beyond for only
$9.99/mo
Loading...