If nothing else during this past year, the pandemic has taught us the importance of not taking for granted those things that mean the most to us. Without the pandemic, we can get focused on the urgent minutiae that steal our time and our energy. With the pandemic and the potential for loss, we had the opportunity to resharpen our focus on what really matters.

The nearly universal answer to the question of what has the greatest value in any parent’s life is their children. We all want to provide the best for them and ensure that they get headed on the right track in life. As a sheriff, looking at the criminal justice system as a whole, this takes on additional significance.

A child who is properly provided and cared for, who has been inspired and primed for success in school, is much less likely to ever become involved in the criminal justice system. Instead, they will hopefully be more likely to lead productive and fulfilling lives where they can have a positive impact on their families and community.

The challenge for working parents, particularly for those with infants and toddlers and especially during the pandemic, is finding and affording quality day care.

Both center-based and home-based care providers have been hit hard by this pandemic. Certainly, this industry operates on the thinnest of margins. Despite the incredibly valuable and critical nature of their work, their compensation is generally very low. Operating restrictions, costly safety requirements or the loss of even a few children from their care can often spell the difference between solvency and having to close their doors.

Should these child care providers be forced to close, working parents will have even fewer choices regarding the care of their children, and the quality of care that we once enjoyed may not be available. From a personal and a professional standpoint, I think that this is an outcome that we need to do our best to avoid.

During the past couple of years, I have felt very privileged to see the amazing work of our government leaders and legislators from a new perspective. In my experience, they strive to understand and learn the nuances of such a wide variety of issues. They attempt to prioritize causes, despite often disparate viewpoints, for the good of our taxpayers and community.

As they struggle with the state’s budget and the use of stimulus funds, I hope that government leaders will clearly remember our most valuable and most vulnerable population. I hope that they will make the care of our working parents’ children an important financial priority and help that industry that has certainly struggled mightily in the past year.

Hopefully, with help, child care providers can continue to perform their critical service for all of those who need it, and those children whom care providers serve today can avoid entering the criminal justice system tomorrow.

Troy Knudson is the sheriff of Rock County and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

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