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Farm safety resource hopes to improve child-care access

A farm safety organization has developed a new tool designed to improve access to child care, potentially reducing children’s exposure to hazards.

The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, in partnership with the Migrant Clinicians Network, released the new resource on Aug. 12, billing it as a road map that could help prevent injuries or deaths.

“Child care is a benefit for everyone,” said Amy Liebman, director of environment and occupational health with the Migrant Clinicians Network.

“It gives children a safe space for when their farm-employee parents are working, and it’s good for the owner because they know their workforce is taken care of.”

The online and paper booklet offers producers a starting point to assess child-care needs, and then provides a slate of steps they can take to make the service available.

For instance, the resource lays out ways they can get the community involved, apply for grants and work with nearby daycares to find a solution. If there is no child care in the community, it provides steps to set up a service.

“There are great models out there, and there is a need for them from more families, but there aren’t enough spots,” Liebman said. “We need to make growers aware because it’s an important need for the farm worker population.”

She explained that among migrant farm employees, gaining access to child-care services has become increasingly challenging.

More women are working in fields with their spouses, she said, and there are fewer spots available at nearby daycares. They also might not be able to afford it.

In some cases, she noted, children end up in the field alongside their working parents and are injured or get killed from a hazard on the farm.

“Agriculture is an incredibly dangerous occupation and it’s unsafe to bring children when farm work is being done,” she said. “There are many stories of children dying due to farm hazards.”

Providing access to child care not only has safety benefits, she added; it also helps employers retain employees.

“This need is important to recognize,” she said. “There are potential solutions and steps to take to improve child-care access and, in some cases, actually start child-care services.”

Even though the tool is targeted for farmers with employees, she said families can also use some of its ideas.

“It’s really about ensuring children are safe when the parents are working,” she said. “We really want to reduce injuries and deaths.”

She said she hopes the booklet raises awareness of the issue.

“By offering solutions or getting people to think proactively, we are raising awareness,” she said. “We need to engage growers and engage child-care providers to keep kids protected.”

The booklet can be accessed at www.cultivatesafety.org.

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