September 16 is National Working Parents Day, offering local leaders an opportunity to reflect on how their cities support and honor the hard working families who make up the backbone of their communities.
In the 21st Century, the majority of parents work outside the home and rely on a number of supports and services to help ensure their children are safe, secure and on the road to a successful future. However, high quality programs and services often don’t exist in their cities or are unaffordable and out of reach.
From early childhood, afterschool and summer learning to financial empowerment programs, the National League of Cities (NLC) works with cities across the country through its Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) to help working parents meet their needs.
Here are three types of NLC programs that help cities make life easier for working parents and their children:
CSAs Help Children and Parents Save for the Future
NLC’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Initiative gives cities the tools to help working parents put their children on the path to long-term financial stability. The partnership between cities and local credit unions also helps solve gaps in economic and educational opportunity, such as low college attendance and completion rates.
We all remember our first piggybank, right? With city-sponsored CSAs, those piggybanks can be replaced by actual bank accounts children use to save for college, and help families gain financial literacy.
Research shows that when a child has a savings account, even if that account holds less than $500, she is three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate. As part of NLC’s efforts in this area, the YEF Institute recently created an opportunity for cities to take part in a peer network to collaborate in planning, developing and implementing city-led CSAs.
Early Childhood Learning Programs Prepare Both Children and Working Parents
With the high cost of childcare and preschool programs, working parents are forced to make tough choices. Studies show that childcare often costs more than housing, food and transportation. In most states, full-time childcare costs more than tuition at public universities. It is not only the poorest residents of cities who are struggling to overcome the financial barrier – even active duty military families, teachers, police officers, fire fighters and college-educated professionals find it hard to afford high quality early childhood programs. Families don’t want their children left behind and look to their local leaders to help find solutions.
When cities invest in high quality, affordable early childhood programs and help keep their families economically stable, working parents have an easier time reaching future financial goals, such as buying a home, sending their children to college and saving for retirement. In the meantime, working parents will also have more disposable income to expose their children to what their city has to offer such as restaurants, entertainment and cultural venues, and other local businesses.
Working with a variety of partners – such as the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Early Childhood-LINC (Learning and Innovation Network for Communities) and MomsRising – NLC is helping city leaders start investing in early childhood programs that address a child’s development and school readiness. Additionally, these programs help working parents effectively foster development at home. The YEF Institute also began work recently on a new two-year project on transforming the early childhood workforce on the local level.
Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs Provide Enriching, Safe Environments While Parents are at Work
Learning doesn’t end when the last bell of the day rings or when summer vacation starts. The reality is, in the middle school and early high school years, young adolescents need a safe and enriching space to excel during that crucial time between the end of the school day and when their parents get home from work.
City leaders are increasingly embracing the use of afterschool and summer learning programs to help expand enrichment opportunities for youth and address a broad range of issues such as academic success, public safety, workforce preparedness, economic development, and health and wellness.
The YEF Institute works with city leaders to develop new approaches to effective afterschool and summer learning programs that give working parents the confidence of knowing their children are in an enriching and safe environment. NLC’s cross section of programs include helping cities use data from partners like local school districts to address questions about the scope, impact and effectiveness of their afterschool programs. Additionally, NLC’s Cities Combating Hunger Through After School Meals Program (CHAMPS) supports cities’ efforts to reduce child hunger by providing federally-subsidized meals and snacks, which also attract children to out-of-school-time programs where they can be active, engaged, and safe while their parents are at work.
This is just a sample of the variety of NLC programs that can help your city make life easier for working parents. For more resources from the YEF Institute on how to make your city family friendly, sign up below.
About the Authors:
Indira Jimenez is the Communications Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Todd Allen Wilson is the Senior Writer in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.