In 2022, 33.3 million families across the U.S. included children under the age of 18. Of these families, 91.2% included at least one working parent, according to 2022 data analyzed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Whether it’s developing new routines or finding ways to balance school, work and home life, many families experience both social and logistical obstacles easing back into the academic year. 

Tyson Foods is proud to employ a diverse workforce that includes working parents and is continually working to find ways to hear directly from team members on the issues that matter to them the most. One area the company has been working directly with team members to find solutions for is providing affordable, accessible, and available child care to team members across the entire business. 

In November 2021, the company made its first significant investment in child care to help ease the stress and financial burden of finding quality child care in Amarillo, Texas. Through working with plant leadership, Tyson Foods awarded grants to the Wesley Community Center and the Maverick Boys & Girls Clubs of Amarillo to pilot a child care program for local team members – free of charge. 

The program, referred to as the Night Owl Program, supports the care of 40 children whose parents work the afternoon and evening shifts. Two years later, the program has continued to flourish, having a positive impact on both the children involved and Tyson team members. 

The success of the Night Owl Program encouraged company leaders to find new ways to support working parents with child care services at the local level. Most recently, Tyson Foods invested nearly $5 million in a Tyson-sponsored on-site child care facility, supporting more than 100 children of team members in Humboldt, Tennessee. 

During this back-to-school season, Tyson Foods caught up with one key partner in bringing the Night Owl Program to life. Donna Soria, CEO and executive director of Maverick Boys & Girls Club, shares her role within the program, its impact on local families and Tyson’s leadership within the workplace child care space. 

The Night Owl Program: Providing Access to Quality Child Care in Amarillo  

Here’s my biggest secret: Kids are people too. 

As CEO and executive director of Maverick Boys & Girls Club in Amarillo, Texas, I am committed to making our child care program a second home to more than 650 children. We’ve become a tight-knit family, bonding through swimming lessons, movie nights, bedtime routines and so much more. One example of how we’re able to bring to life our mission, providing a safe, nurturing environment that enhances opportunities for youth to develop the qualities necessary to become responsible citizens, is the child care partnership with Tyson Foods.  

Much like your role with your family, it’s a 24/7 job. Many of these children need support while their loved ones are working. Tyson Foods recognized its team members needed a non-traditional child care model, especially for those working the second shift, typically from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Together we created and launched the Night Owl Program in November 2021, which cares for a group of 40 children whose parents work the afternoon and evening shifts. Recognizing child care as an opportunity to provide employment solutions for current and potential team members, Tyson Foods fully funds this program, so they have the peace of mind their children are in a safe, supportive environment after school and in the evenings. We’re able to step in to provide structured and experiential programming in a secure location – a home away from home.  

One of my favorite stories is about a woman who came to us and asked, “How do I get my children into Maverick Boys & Girls Club’s child care program?” At the time, her children were 11 and 6 years old, and she was faced with them having no supervision while she was at work. With that unsupervised situation, she started to see negative behaviors in her kids, sometimes taking food from stores without paying and running into trouble on the streets. She applied for work at the Tyson Foods Amarillo facility after she learned that employment provided a pathway to our child care program and would give her children the safe, positive space they needed while she was working atypical hours. 

Fast-forward 6 months. This woman’s oldest child has discovered a passion for culinary arts after channeling his curiosity and hunger to learn about new things through our cooking program. He is now engaged and active in positive activities while his mom is working, happily experimenting and cooking meals for the staff and other children. It’s all about showing compassion for our children, opening their eyes and providing access to an environment that allows them to explore who they are, feeding their interests, and envisioning more options for their future. 

Other children in our program have expressed positive reactions to the program, too. One child shared that they “really like that I have a place to go where I am treated with value,” and another said, “if I couldn’t come to the Maverick, I’d have to take care of my five-year-old brother after school.” 

We’ve seen positive movement beyond Maverick Boys & Girls Club’s unique partnership with Tyson Foods, which has created a ripple effect throughout the Amarillo community. Today, local hospitals and colleges are looking to follow Tyson’s lead with this child care model. With many employers still working to recover from the lingering and disruptive impacts of the pandemic and the tight labor market, Tyson has stepped forward as a leader to demonstrate a viable model for equitable access to quality child care right in our own backyard.  

Our organization is grateful for our partnership with Tyson Foods, and we hope to replicate this success by expanding our Night Owl Program across other regions. Kids are people, too, and Tyson Foods has created a pathway for other companies to support employees working any position or shift with child care that puts their kids on a better path to the future.