5/13 CEO UPDATE: Letter to Lowcountry Employers
First, let me say that we are grateful for your continued individual and organizational investments in our mission. We are honored to stand together with you to defend the potential of 130 active Littles. Like you, we are busy adapting our business strategies to support more virtual contact and to prepare ourselves to become fully operational again. As you reopen your businesses, we respectfully offer a little information about our region and about the families we serve. It is our sincere hope that you will consider this offering as you make decisions that affect individuals who are at once both essential and vulnerable.
Within our region alone, 60,000 children live in single parent households (35%), and more than 30,000 children (25%, 1:4) live in households at or below the poverty line (https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#SC). While we believe ALL children have extraordinary potential, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry is committed to an equity focus. As such, we actively prioritize service to children who demonstrate significant need. Last year, 81% of our “Littles” lived in families without two parents and 94% qualified for free or reduced lunch.
Even before our state and region began lifting social distancing measures, most of our Littles' parents were steadily working in critical/essential service roles that make all our lives more convenient. Each day, our Littles’ parents/guardians must take risks many of us avoid as we enjoy the privilege of working from home. Further, virtually ALL our Littles have parents/guardians that depend on school, summer camps, and/or childcare to be able to work and put food on the table. As distancing measures lift now and into the summer, even more of the children we serve will be staying with extended family members (namely older grandparents) or other adults, with siblings, or by themselves with no caregiver at all. While the families we serve often experience the pressures of having to be “creative” to meet the demands of childcare and making ends meet during the best of times, a school- and camp-free summer puts our “Littles” at even greater risk for the educational losses associated with “summer slide,” and worse, at increased risk for abuse and exploitation.
Such vulnerability, however, pales when we consider the devastating impact COVID-19 contraction could have on the health of our Littles’ parents/guardians and their ability to keep their family whole and safe. Click here for more information about the impact of COVID-19 on African American families in our program.
I share these statistics because many employers are feeling extraordinary pressure to restart their businesses and must grapple with how to support families with children all along the economic spectrum. As you consider how to reopen, we urge you to consider how you will support your ALL your employees, but especially employees with children who are not high wage earners.
Advocating for our families, we respectfully offer the following questions to help inform your strategy:
- Which and how many employees are parents and/or single parents and how they have been affected by current childcare and school closures?
- How many of employees will have to place their children in potentially unsafe situations to return to work?
- Can you adjust workflow to allow employees flexible working hours? Longer days, earlier mornings, later evenings, a mix of days working at home and working in the office?
- Will you consider scheduling employees with children when they can arrange for childcare?
- Will you provide personal protection equipment and do you know which employees live with individuals who have compromised health or are at an advanced age?
- If you cannot accommodate an employees needs, what can you do to help your employee stay eligible for unemployment and weather gaps in pay (severance, placement services, etc.)?
- What goodwill, morale, and loyalty would you generate among your employees, your investors, and your community at large if you embraced and broadcasted a family-friendly policy?
Certainly, balancing short term needs with our community’s greater good and long-term future will continue to be complex for all of us. I am, however, confident that our community’s BEST leaders will be the ones who demonstrate a flexible mindset, sincere value and support for ALL their employees, and an ability to embrace both short- and long-term thinking. Such leaders may EVEN be the ones that demonstrate the moral fortitude to make short-term sacrifices to keep their workforce and their families safe and whole.
On behalf of all our Littles and their families, I thank you for reading and for giving serious consideration.
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry