Every day in America, thousands of kids miss school because they lack one simple thing: clean clothes.
Kids who regularly miss school are 7 times more likely to drop out.
Kids who drop out have a 40% higher unemployment rate, are 70% more likely to be on welfare, and are 8 times more likely to go to prison.
As a brand, Whirlpool celebrates the value of the simple acts of care we give every day (i.e. cooking, cleaning and washing), and we're always looking to find ways to prove the impact that these acts of care have on the people we love and the world we live in.
So when we saw these stats about kids struggling with school attendance because of a lack of clean clothes, we made it our goal to see if something as simple as laundry could impact something as important as attendance rates.
That lead us to create the Care Counts program.
We began by surveying schools and school districts to identify areas in the country where access to clean clothes was a serious issue. The response was overwhelming. Turns out it's a nationwide issue.
We selected several districts spanning the country and installed washers and dryers in their schools to give students access to clean clothes whenever they needed it. As part of the program, we created and installed data collection devices on each laundry pair, which allowed us to attribute each wash to an individual student.
This data let us draw clear connections between a student's access to clean clothes and an improvement in their attendance compared to the previous year. Beyond attendance, Care Counts also tracked the overall classroom performance of participating students to identify the academic and social impact of the program.
Care Counts represents a whole new way of thinking about attendance-improvement programs.
Up until now, most attendance programs focused on providing incentives that encourage attendance. This is the first program that provides resources that enable attendance. Instead of assuming that kids miss school by choice, we've understood that it's often circumstances or practical challenges that prevent willing kids from getting to school.
So Care Counts focused on removing those challenges to attendance as a way to fight absenteeism, and it's proven to be a much more effective strategy. Never before has the issue of clean clothes been addressed as a way to improve attendance. So as the first program of its kind, Care Counts has begun to change the conversation from, "How can we encourage kids to come to school?" to "How can we enable kids to come to school?"
With the Care Counts program, over 93% of participating students saw an increase in their attendance over the previous year.
Students who had missed more than 10 days the previous year reduced their absences by almost two weeks.
We fielded a survey to teachers who had students in the program, and the impact that clean clothes made on their students' overall classroom performance was beyond all expectations. According to teachers:
89% of students increased their classroom participation
95% of students were more motivated in class
95% of students participated more in extracurricular activities
Care Counts also gave teachers and administrators a new perspective on the role their schools can play in their communities. By being able to provide a new and necessary resource for their students, their schools became a more vital and welcoming place for families to be involved with.
As far as the brand's equity-driven objectives, the Care Counts program is a quintessential expression of the Whirlpool mission to demonstrate the impact of everyday acts of care in real, measurable ways.
But most importantly, Care Counts impacted the trajectory of countless kids' educations, helping them attend school more often and have a better shot at a successful future. All because of something as simple as having clean clothes.