The Other Side of a Long Summer.

For some families summer means increased family time, vacations and new adventures. For others it means worry and concern over an increase in expenses that have to be managed within a tight budget. The debate over Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order mandating Maryland’s public schools to start classes after Labor Day next year does not address the families who struggle through summer and its increase in expenses. Far too often our most vulnerable children and families are left out of policy discussions that directly affect them. As I listened to the debate over the extensions, I did not hear anyone talking about families and children who rely on school meals and struggle to find adequate childcare during the summer months. This change in policy may allow many families to enjoy extended vacations and some Maryland businesses will benefit from an extended break but the fact is that 1 out of every 5 kids in Maryland struggles with hunger. We cannot make this change in policy without considering our most vulnerable children and families. Hunger does not take a vacation.

The Kentland Community in Landover, Maryland was like my second home during some very difficult times. It was at this community center where I would pick up vegetables and bread to supplement my family’s meals. I still connect with this community regularly and I was thrilled to have some neighbors come out and meet me for a roundtable discussion last week. We discussed the extension and how it will impact each one of us personally (both positively and negatively) as well as the way it will impact our friends and neighbors in the area. The community members were hopeful about the extended time with their children but did express concern about the financial implications and acknowledge that they know families who will have a severe increase in need during the extension.

Many families throughout the state of Maryland find the summer season very hard to navigate. Childcare and food become a major concern for families that lack the resources to cover increased needs during the summer months. I am deeply concerned for the large number of Maryland families that will not have childcare and will be forced to leave their children home alone during these additional weeks. I personally have five children in Maryland Public Schools and I know the strain that summer break can place on a tight budget. I know there are parents and guardians who worry about how they will sustain their children’s basic needs during an extended summer season.

I applaud an effort to increase tourism dollars and to help out Maryland businesses that are dependent on revenue raised in the summer months. However, we cannot ignore the challenge this change in policy creates. We must figure out how we as a state can address the needs that will be created by this major change. Childcare and food insecurities cannot be ignored.

My Parent/Provider Roundtable was a first step at getting all of those involved to talk about the issues and solutions. I look forward to working with Governor Hogan, members of the legislative body, service providers and our citizens to ensure that all Marylanders are able to look forward to a long summer.