Washington, D.C., came to MCC Oct. 10, as the Health and Human Services secretary, presidential advisor Ivanka Trump and one of Missouri’s two U.S. senators took part in a discussion on child-care challenges and how they affect the workforce.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services event — officially known as a Roundtable on Improving Access to High-Quality Child Care — was held at MCC- Penn Valley Education Center and included welcoming remarks from Dr. Kimberly Beatty, the Metropolitan Community College chancellor.
Assistant HHS Secretary Lynn Johnson moderated the roundtable, which included her boss, Secretary Alex Azar, along with Sen. Roy Blunt, Gov. Mike Parson and Trump. The Washington group heard from two parents, two child care providers, two business leaders and one representative each from Missouri and Kansas social service agencies.
MCC-Penn Valley student RonNeesha Goodwin was among the panelists. She shared that it was difficult to land jobs or pursue an education after she became a mother at age 14. Goodwin said the biggest problem was that potential employers and others judged her for getting pregnant at such a young age and were not willing to give her a chance.
She enrolled at Penn Valley earlier this year, and it was here where an advisor told her about child care available on campus. That proved instrumental in shaping her future.
“Without Penn Valley, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” said Goodwin, who became emotional telling the dignitaries her story. She’s now studying early childhood education.
“I want to grow,” Goodwin said. “I don’t want another kid to go through that situation. I want to help.”
Much of the conversation focused on the importance of providing high-quality, affordable child care options — including at night and on weekends — to allow more parents to enter the workforce. Trump and others from the D.C. delegation mentioned the nation’s and Missouri’s historically low unemployment rates, and the number of open jobs, more than once.
One of the two business panelists was Carolyn Watley of CBIZ, who also represented the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Watley is a former board member of the MCC Foundation.
The discussion at Penn Valley was the seventh of 10 HHS child-care roundtables taking place around the country.