BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Actress Jennifer Garner visited with kids at a Burlington child care center Thursday. After the event, Garner and Save the Children Action Network CEO Mark Shriver spoke with our Cat Viglienzoni about the organization and why it's highlighting Vermont.
Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Can you reiterate why this organization is important to you and why its message is important in this day and age?
Jennifer Garner: I grew up in West Virginia. My sisters and I grew up in a middle-class household because my parents both were lucky enough to get an education. But we were surrounded by rural, generational poverty. And my mom had grown up incredibly poor in Oklahoma and she got a leg up and it changed the course of all of our lives. So when I found myself in the position of having a little bit of a voice, I went purposely looking for who was helping kids in rural America. And it was Save the Children and it was Mark. And as I went to Mark, I said I want to help kids in an after-school program, in an elementary school. And he said no, no, if you really want to help kids, you have to help them before they're born, right after they're born, those first five years of life. And so more and more, that's where I have focused. And it's been over 10 years.
Cat Viglienzoni: And so Mark, talk about the organization and what it does. What could someplace like Vermont learn from Save the Children or get help from Save the Children?
Mark Shriver: Well as Jennifer said just a couple minutes ago, we're celebrating what's going on in Vermont. There's a bipartisan commitment from the speaker and the president of the Senate and the governor to invest in high-quality early childhood education. So we're here to support it. Let's Grow Kids is a great organization in Vermont-- has been leading the way. And we're so happy to be supplementing what they're doing and following their lead. And we wanted to take what's happening in Vermont and use that across the country because we have bipartisan support in Vermont. We have great local nonprofits doing great work. We just need more of an investment. And we're here to celebrate what Vermont is doing and hopefully spread it across the country.
Cat Viglienzoni: So you said Vermont is a role model. What will you be telling other states about what Vermont is doing, specifically?
Mark Shriver: I think it's the commitment to increasing the child care subsidies that are going in here to make it more accessible to poorer families, always maintaining the quality, as well. Because you can increase the accessibility, but if you don't have high-quality early learning, it goes for naught. So I think that combination that Vermont is stressing of increasing accessibility so that more people have access to child care and making sure it's high quality is really important. And we want to make sure that's spread across the country.
Cat Viglienzoni: And I'll throw this question to [Jennifer]. I think some people might say, you know what, you're an actress. You can afford the child care that you need and why should I listen to what you have to say? What would you say to them?
Jennifer Garner: Uh, you're correct. I am lucky to have the best child care. I wish that I was being raised by them. I feel like my kid's child care is raising me, and they're much younger than I am. That being said, all I can do is try to help-- for lack of a better word-- to shine a light on the issue and it's something that's vitally important. And try to hold legislators and governors and voters accountable for all being part of a solution.
Cat Viglienzoni: And what would be your message to voters who have to hold their lawmakers accountable for the decisions they make but who, ultimately, may also have to pay the taxes that fund these programs? What would be your message to them?
Mark Shriver: I think it's the best investment we could make as a country. When kids are entering kindergarten and they're so far behind and we spend millions and billions of dollars trying to remediate them, what we need to do is invest early. It's the best ROI-- return on investment-- that taxpayers can make.