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Residents Speak Out About Proposed Child Care Regulation Cut

by ARLnow.com | March 19, 2013 at 11:15 am | 2,076 views | 104 Comments

Child care (photo via Arlington County)A group of residents is organizing to oppose a proposed cut to child care regulation in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget.

Donnellan’s budget, which is under consideration by the County Board, cuts the county’s Child Care Office, which regulates local daycare centers. Three full time positions would be eliminated, saving $250,000 annually.

If the cut were made, a local ordinance regulating daycare providers would be eliminated, and oversight of such daycare centers would be returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which opponents say has weaker standards than the county. In addition, family daycare centers with up to 5 children are not regulated by the state and would instead go unregulated.

Opponents of the Child Care Office cut have formed an online petition, now with 288 supporters, and a Facebook page, with 113 fans, to send a message to county leaders.

“The County Code and Child Care Office PROTECT our children by requiring small home daycares to be licensed and by requiring SIGNIFICANTLY higher standards for all settings,” says the petition page. “Investing in early childhood is SMART ECOMONICS: research has shown high quality early care and education significantly decreases major social and economonic problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of high school and adverse health conditions.”

The petition was started by Sandra Redmore, director of the Clarendon Child Care Center.

In addition to eliminating local oversight of the county’s dozens of licensed daycare providers, the closure of the Child Care Office would eliminate professional development programs run by the office.

Child Care Office supporters are being asked to register today to speak at the upcoming March 26 public budget hearing.

Photo via Arlington County

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  • S. Arlington Mom

    This is a bad idea. Luckily my child’s daycare would still be state-licensed but this is just not the right place to cut the budget.

    • Greg

      The State requirements are more lax than the County’s, though. So your day care could add more kids to classes, for example. A two year old class could have 1 teacher for 8 kids (Arlington would require 2). That’s just one area that would be affected.

  • Save the Children

    With all the money the county wastes, you’d think they could find $250K to protect kids, when VA is considered amongst the worst in the country for regulating day cares

    • BanjoBill

      “VA is considered amongst the worst in the country for regulating day cares”… By who? (The three people who’s jobs are on the block?) And based on what study?

      And by VA being the worst, is that based on state-wide information, including Appalachia and areas that are living in poverty, or is VA considered the worst relative to the job they do in Arlington itself? Call me kooky, but I have a funny feeling that in all of VA, Arlington is probably nowhere near the top of the list of places where daycare regulation is a social crisis.

      • mjw703
        • southie

          That WaPo story does nothing to support the position that spending government money = protecting kids. It is not the state’s fault that the mother in the story chose to put her child in an unlicensed facility and did not bother to do a background check on the person she entrusted with her child’s care.

          • mjw703

            She did do a background check. Please reread the article during the next Fox News commercial break.

          • leehwy

            Apparently there was a background check, but the fact remains that the mother chose an unlicensed day care facility. Whether or not a Child Care Office like Arlington’s existed, the outcome would not have changed since the facility was operating outside the law.

          • mjw703

            Well no, in Arlington County, if an unlicensed child care existed it would be shut down.

          • arlhokie

            Nice victim blaming. Did you even bother to read the article? Your comment seems to indicate otherwise. I’ll summarize a bit. She did everything to find a licensed day care provider that was workable with her work hours and commute and so on and wasn’t able to. So she turned to unlicensed providers and did do a background check.

    • SomeGuy

      What are the specific above-and-beyond regulations imposed by the county
      that these protestors care about? I.e., what is Arlington County doing that that state does
      NOT do that you think would cause harm for children if eliminated? It sounds to me like the county function is redundant, and thus an obvious target for elimination of the “waste” your comment mentions.

      • ARL

        Well, for one thing, the state leaves any daycare provider with 5 or fewer kids completely unregulated, so yeah, that’s a significant – and not redundant – county function.

        • SomeGuy

          Eh. Seems minor. What do the local authorities regulate on those fewer-than-five daycare centers that wouldn’t be apparent? E.g. if it’s on the level of verifying that the place has plumbing, a smoke detector, and a fire extinguisher, I’d say you’re not losing much that you couldn’t verify on your own with a simple walk-through. Need to do a criminal background check? You can run that for about $25 or less on your own.

          Mind you, I’m not the type who would call the restaurant control board to “regulate” the neighborhood 9-year old’s small-time lemonade stand either, so maybe I just don’t get it.

          • Pete B

            Read some inspection reports about full buckets of water sitting near play areas, assistants without criminal background checks, unemptied toilets. The county does unannounced inspections to look for such violations. The state does not. How about we eliminate the county’s budget for restaurant inspections? That’d also save money.

          • SomeGuy

            Let’s run with your analogy. A “restaurant” serving not more than 5 patrons out of the home is called me having my friends over for dinner. If you think I should get a food preparation permit and be subject to surprise county inspections at my next 5-person barbecue, then we won’t see eye to eye on this.

          • arlhokie

            I think you’re missing the point of the analogy. The point wasn’t the number of “customers”. The point was that both restaurants and child care are items that should fall under state/local licensing and regulations because public safety is at stake and incompetence puts lives at risk.

          • SomeGuy

            arlhokie, I don’t think I’m missing the point. My earlier comment asked for an enumeration of which local laws go above and beyond the state laws. The only one anyone has cited in this thread is that the county regulates ALL daycares, whereas the state doesn’t bother with those caring for 5 or fewer children. I don’t deny that there’s some threshold above which daycares should be regulated. I’m just not convinced that Arlington County is smarter than Richmond on what that threshold should be. So as long as the state is still regulating in the case of more than 5 children, I don’t think Arlington County needs to add their extra layer of oversight.

        • tburger

          ARL, that are not “unregulated” but have different standards. https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnrckids.org%2FSTATES%2FVA%2Fva_fam_day_homes.pdf

          What is somewhat funny is given the hyper nature of parents in Arlington with respect to their kids do you really think a home daycare would risk adding kids because the State says it is okay but Arlington doesn’t.

    • Texas Aggie 1966

      Before everyone goes nuts about this…..do some research! Note how many “teachers” and assistants for how many children of what ages! Go to their internet site and check out the staff…..

  • E2DAV

    This just seems like the wrong place to cut, especially since it is $250K. The fact is that there is a massive shortage of large daycare facilities in the County. The wait lists are usually 18 – 24 months deep. So, fortunately, we do have people stepping in for opportunity and opening in-home daycare facilities. I use these and I don’t think the County is the perfect oversight committee, but I am more at ease that these homes are inspected, audited and there is some sort of accreditation going on.

    • Jeff

      Not saying the cuts are right or wrong, but wouldn’t this help rectify the shortage of daycare facilities? Less regulation = less red tape = fewer barriers to entry. The state will still regulate the facilities, but as the article states at a weaker level.

      • ARL

        Are these regulations a barrier to entry though? Do they impose a cost?

        And if so, maybe the costs involve things we shouldn’t give up, like smoke alarms and baby gates and stuff like that.

        The regulation would not only be at a weaker level, it would be non-existent for anyone taking care of five or fewer kids.

        • Jeff

          Yes, any regulation of any sort is a barrier to entry. In this case, it may not be a bad thing, but it is still a barrier. There are costs associated with permits, licenses, fees, etc. Even if there was no direct cost of the permits and licenses themselves, there is the cost of ensuring you’re up to spec – which isn’t a bad thing in application. Dealing with the regulations itself is even considered a barrier – even if you would have otherwise passed with flying colors. Regulation does increase the risk of unlicensed operations, but I would assume the relative low risk of unlicensed operations existing is probably far offset by shutting down or correcting unsafe operations.

          • ARL

            Okay, but is it really a large barrier to entry? Is it so hard to do that alot of people who want to open daycares are going to give up instead? I don’t know.

      • E2DAV

        It’s actually very, very little red tape. I realize this would not help the lack of daycare facilities, but basically ARL has the high cost of real estate and trouble zoning for these types of facilities. So, there is not a lot of market opportunity for large daycares to come in. That is why this level of regulation is needed.

        Like I said, it is very little red tape and I am not a big believer in licensing or city bureaucracy in general, but the county basically says you (as a licensed daycare provider) can have up to X toddler and Y amount of infant/babies per person. They also have to have some CPR and a little bit of training. This is not like licensing hairdressers (cumbersome, unnecessary and superfluous). The people who set up in-home daycare facilities typically don’t speak English as a first language, are not wired for parents peeking in during the middle of the day, and there is not a company behind them that would be liable if there was gross negligence. The county and it’s oversight does not rectify any of that, but I at least know that somebody is checking in and would raise appropriate red flags if something looked wrong. This is a minimal expense in a county that needs this type of service with a lot of two-income households; so yes – parents should be ultimately accountable for choosing the right facility, but we cannot be there all the time.

        As for the state regulation, pick up the WaPo from a few weeks ago and there is an article about how there is essentially no criteria established and no enforcement mechanism. So, yes, the if you consider ‘nothing’ as ‘weaker’ that is true, but I am comfortable saying the $250K is worth the very minimal “red tape” for providing daycare in this County.

        • Jeff

          As I said, I wasn’t arguing whether or not it was worth it. The fact of the matter is any regulation of any sort creates barriers to entry. It may be worth it, as you argue. Any red tape is still more than some people would otherwise be willing to go through to open the business. An additional layer of the county also increases risk of unlicensed operations. As you state though, for the low apparent relative cost, it very well may be worth it.

          • E2DAV

            From what I can tell on the county website, the actual charge for the license is nothing. It is less than $50 for a criminal background check, sexual predator check and one or two others I saw. So, basically you (as a provider) pay so that we know you have no criminal history and we will license you. In addition, the County has a set of best practices that you have to comply with or be subject to a fee. So, the biggest barrier to entry is actually finding a home or apartment that will give you enough space to have kids in your house.

            I know you are playing it safe and not really committing to an argument other than high school economics of barriers to entry means less competition, but essentially, there are extremely low barriers to entry that the County is creating. In addition, the cost to the County is less than .02% of the 2012 FY county budget. So, the benefit (some standards and enforcement) seems to be more than the cost. And, the barriers to entry created by the County do not seem to prohibitive to prevent competition.

        • observer

          All of your points are well-taken. I hope the county board is reading this. I would guess that you have children and Jeff doesn’t.

  • damiec

    Yet another example of where the county budget sacrifices public health and safety (fire, police, school nurses) at the expense of luxuries like the pool and the trolley.

  • JimPB

    Bravo for the adults who are speaking up for the welfare of those who can not (the little children).

  • ArlingtonWay

    I support the cut. $250K is a quarter of a new bus/trolley station. It’s about priorities, people! These superstops don’t just build themselves.

    • novasteve

      It might even cover an extra giant diving platform at the $80 Million pool! We all need to make sacrifices to get our street car and pool!

    • Eric

      For a million bucks a pop you’d think they could have a daycare center at every superstop (like they do in Sweden).

      • novasteve

        Well, we’d have to pay $30 for a sixpack of beer to get the type of socialism scandinavia has.

      • speonjosh

        Where taxes are much, much higher. In other words, you get what you pay for….

        • Abe Froman

          Actually, once you add up federal, state and local taxes with other withholdings like social security and medicare, most us taxpayers pay a rate within a couple of percentage points of what the most tax hungry countries in Europe take from their citizens earnings.

          • Josh S

            Prove it. And be sure to compare apples to apples.

          • drax
          • Ronan

            Not true.

            And you have to recall, our health care system costs way more than theirs, even though we rate our quality of health care lower than those countries do. On top of that, our military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

    • fatkidspecial

      oops just saw this, but yea. same thought.

  • Tapped out

    Cut away!

  • THink of the children

    Please email the county to express your views on this cut at: CountyBoard@arlingtonva.us

    • bemused bystander

      Please clarify the message. Cutting the office would not automatically cancel the local rules — the Board would have to repeal them. Isn’t it more accurate to say that eliminating the office would eliminate oversight and enforcement? Which is equally damaging. This isn’t nit-picking — stating the issue correctly means nobody can brush off your concerns by saying you got it wrong.

      • confused

        Yeah, I agree – that part isn’t clear.

    • mancker

      yes

  • Virginia_Girl

    So a new bus stop and a trolley are more important to the county board?

    • flux

      I’m not going to speculate openly about their reasoning for the selections for this recent round of cuts. Philosophically I have problems with most of them though. Unfortunately I think there are only three options: A – bite the bullet on the social and public safety cuts (that takes an awful lot of discipline on the part of the targeted constituents), B – pony up even more taxes then they have already proposed, or C – vote them out of office until we can better people in their jobs.

      I fear option B is what we will end up with.

      • speonjosh

        How would “better people” ensure there is never a need to make tough budgeting decisions?

        • DCBuff

          Perhaps “better people” would never make major budget decisions that would result in such cuts just so you can ride a trolley and pretend you’re in a Rice-a-roni commercial.

          • Josh S

            “Perhaps?”

          • commuter

            I like to ride around on Metro and pretend I’m on the New York subway. Weeee! It’s the only reason I supported building Metro. I don’t actually think it’s about transportation or economic development or important stuff like that.

          • DCBuff

            The comment was directed at someone specific, which would be evident not only to that person, but to anyone who paid attention. But, hey go right on and think that your comment was funny. And, keep riding Metro. They need your cash.

          • Dee

            This is an A & B conversation on a public Internet Board so C your way out of it.

        • flux

          Because when I say “better” I mean someone who can balance a budget better than the current board members.

          And you know what, I’m tired of responding to your silly rhetorical questions. I’m quite sure I have a different political philosophy from you, so my picture of a “better” politician is most likely different than yours. I hope that concept is something you can understand without asking more questions.

          • Josh S

            The point of the rhetorical questions is to shine a light on sloppy reasoning. Whatever your definition of “better people,” there is no such thing as a person who would prevent budget shortfalls, who would always be able to make budget decisions that pleased everyone, etc. You can wish for “better people” all you want, but even if the Board were full of such “better people,” it won’t change the realities of the job – making tough decisions that will always offend some portion of the population.

          • Josh S

            Also, the budget is balanced. Every year. Making the cuts is exactly what they’re doing – balancing the budget.

          • drax

            But if we’re going to settle this, we have to figure out whose version of a better politician should take office. So it make sense to ask you questions about why.

  • novasteve

    Don’t forget, the county had the money to put up dozens of signs to ask people not to smoke in parks in the county, despite not having the authority to prevent people from smoking in parks.

  • OX4

    I would like to volunteer to do anything to help the lady in the photo.

    • ARL

      Stock photo ladies are always hawt.

  • novasteve

    Maybe the county can hire one of the new “Residents” they will attract to the year round homeless shelter to replace the people they will lay off?

  • acdc hack

    Long time trick of local governments through the age….when faced with cutting, cut the useful items first.

    • DCBuff

      Exactly right. If they stopped the luxuries (yes, yes I consider the trolley a luxury), there wouldn’t be the hue and cry, so they couldn’t raise taxes to restore such cuts. But cut something like this, and (rightly) the local citizenry is up in arms. So, they raise taxes.

      • ARL

        So when they say “okay, we won’t cut those things — we’ll raise taxes” the people just go along without thinking about it further?

        Do you really believe people are easily manipulated like that? (But not you, of course – you’re smarter than most).

        • DCBuff

          Yes, people in ArlCo generally go along with tax increases as evidenced in part by non-competitive board races. Do I believe people are easily manipulated? Based on your post, yes.

  • novasteve

    Have no fear people, they still have plenty of money to put signs up in spanish, or to build million dollar busstops, or to built $80 million swimming pools, and a trolley! Probably their real goal is to get a demand for state run day care, so they can increase the amount of government in people’s lives. The indoctrination can begin at younger ages.

  • C

    I agree, this is a lousy place to make a cut. The work they do really helps parents sort out the good from the bad as all the violations are publicly listed. There was an article in the Post just recently about the lack of oversight statewide after a child died in an unregulated daycare in Loudon County. The article made it a point to acknowledge Arlington and Fairfax counties for upping the standards and holding in-home day care facilities responsible for providing a safe place.

  • speonjosh

    These folks will have to get in line with everyone else who is 100% certain that their need is greater than everyone else’s need.

    • novasteve

      What’s more important, day care safety or putting a homeless shelter, year round, in one of the most expensive parts of the county?

      • Josh S

        I would submit, Mr. Steve, that that is a false dichotomy.

    • Me! It’s all about Me!

      Agreed. We all talk about how important it is to cut spending, but whenever the cut comes from our little slice of the pie, it’s always “the wrong place.” And I also agree that we should be cutting luxuries like swimming pools, trolleys, and the Aritsphere too.

  • T Burger

    Everyone does realize two things:
    1) Police, fireman, anything do with children are always cut first because it creates outrage and it makes people more agreeable to tax increases
    2) the person starting the petition is not exactly the most unbiased source since she wants to use scare tactics and regulation to eliminate competition

    • Josh S

      Is there a chance that you are wrong?

      • SomeGuy

        Yes. Likewise, Is there a chance that she/he is right? Also yes.

    • Not true

      #2 Absolutely not true! I know Sandra personally and your anonymous slander is uncalled for. Stick with the facts: When daycares are unregulated kids die. See Wash. Post 3.10.13.

      • Daycare Provider

        Those folks were operating illegally well over what is legal in the state and the parents idiots to have put their kids there. Having solid training is most important part of choosing a provider.

      • tburger

        Did you notice the ALL CAPS part of her petition and the use of “requiring small home daycares.” If she was as worried about the children as you think she is she wouldn’t have made the distinction. She is worried about the additional steps the county asks from small home daycares beyond what the state requires has stopped people from starting daycares. More daycares, means lower prices…see how that works.

    • E2DAV

      There is almost no red tape here. And, I have met a lot of the licensed providers, they are not anywhere close to a commission or a union. So, your #2 point is stupid unless you have some facts.

  • fatkidspecial

    250k for protecting our kids? such a waste when that money could be used to fund 1/4 of a bus station.

  • Cry Me A River

    Oh my- who will coddle the precious tots?

    I can’t seem to work up any outrage about this for a few reasons… 1) It’s not like they announced they’re shuttering daycare altogether, or that all of Arlington’s daycares will have free reign to start running meth labs out of the basement. The office still exists- they’re cutting a few positions. People successfully raised kids through two world wars and the Great Depression (and all without bike helmets) – I’m sure folks will find some way to march on despite this devastating circumstance. 2) You should be so fortunate such an office exists at all. There’s a state office that oversees this, but that’s not good enough so there’s a local one too? There are many places people would be lucky to have reliable daycare at all, but woe the plight of the Arlington soccer mom. 3) Opponents say the state “has weaker standards” – based on what, and by who’s measure, and how much weaker are we talking? Sounds a lot like an opinion- how about some info to back that up? 4) Most daycare facilities are legit places that will take good care of children regardless of the level of oversight, which leads to… 5) The ultimate daycare oversight is parents- if you don’t like a place, or it doesn’t give you a good vibe, don’t use it. If places with up to 5 children won’t have local oversight, then don’t go to those people if you don’t trust them.

    • novasteve

      I think it’s just funny, the priority the county has. They’ll put in a bum mansion but get rid of safety controls for children?

      • Scott

        Bum mansion indeed… why oh why don’t people take you seriously?

        • Josh S

          And I believe that, in addition to being ridiculous, it’s also plagiarism. I think KK came up with the bum mansion moniker first.

          • Hal Jalikakik

            Bum roundup time again. Amazing how that comes out of a story about day care.

    • ARL

      Yes, they would be cutting some regulation altogether, according to the article:

      “If the cut were made, a local ordinance regulating daycare providers would be eliminated,”

      Your tired old “we raised kids just fine back in the day” argument is so ridiculous – no, we didn’t. More kids died back then, we just don’t have them around today to remember it.

      You seem to not have kids, or at least not in daycare. Am I right?

    • mjw703

      http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/03/police-three-month-old-baby-at-unlicensed-daycare-center-in-bristow-dies-73555.html In nearby Prince William County, a baby died in an in-home day care that had 23 children. In Arlington that wouldn’t happen, but if we deregulate in-home day care, this could happen here.

    • arlhokie

      There’s a critical shortage of quality child care in Arlington and the area in general.

  • Abe Froman

    Nickel and dime away to a $50 million short fall.

    Dim wits.

  • JohnB

    How about having an annual licensing fee to fund the Child Care Office?

    • $$$

      No kids then? You must not know how expensive day care costs already are for working parents…

      • JohnB

        I count 162 registered providers. That’s a about $1,543 per provider for the $250,000 budget or an extra $128 per month divided out over multiple kids. If the benefit is worth it the advocates of maintaining the regulation should support user fees to support it or at least subsidize it.

        • Pete B

          Keep going, a little farther. You’re missing a number – what’s a child’s life worth?

  • HC

    I would be fine funding this in other ways, such as a child care fee paid if you use Arlington-regulated child care facilities. I
    know the “cut everything” Arlingtonian commenters can’t afford that
    extra dollar, so I’d be fine paying $5 or $10 a year for a service that I use and think is important.

  • Parent in support of change

    As the parent of two little kids in day care in Arlington, this seems to be a made up crisis. Arlington is one of like three localities in VA that has codes in addition to the state. Does this make us better than the state? Who knows…but the rest of the state seems to be doing OK. Maybe not as great as our little utopia of Arlington, but OK. Nothing in the petition language in the article speaks directly against the change…just vague references to higher standards and some research, but nothing that clearly articulates an actual, rather than perceived, decrease in quality. Every project to be cut is going to have some opposition, but God knows if children/education/puppies are involved (I’m being slightly facetious!) the claws really come out, but that doesn’t mean the cut shouldn’t happen. By the way, the Clarendon Child Center is behind this? So…an entity that may see increased competition, i.e., increase the supply of local daycare options, as a result of the change, doesn’t want the change. Got it. How impartial.

    • Douglas Parker

      Well said. Agree that the originating entity can hardly be considered objective.

    • speonjosh

      two thumbs up.

    • dk (not DK)

      Do we know that the rest of the state is doing okay?

      • Josh S

        What do we know?

  • Maitreya0208

    They should have put a bond on the ballot. Arlington voters approve every bond, regardless of how much money is borrowed, for whatever bad idea. The day cares will be under regulated, but at least there will be a street car line!

  • bobbytiger

    Let’s see now.
    $250,000.00, divided by 3 ………

  • Plain Jane

    Abominable proposal!!! That office and their staff are terrific. When I was searching for child care, I contacted them to ask about specific providers. They gave me a wealth of information, which led me to a terrific day care center and also steered me away from one they admittedly wished could be closed down.

  • Ken Walker

    There’s an agency, infant toddler family day care that licenses in home providers and their standards are high no matter what arlington does. my brother used them for his kids and it was great.

  • Daycare Provider

    If you want more providers, then cutting the local ultra-strict regulations will open that door. The county discourages new home daycares by its regulations be so much harder and limiting number of clients to what won’t pay for most providers basically living expenses in Arlington.

  • Bob

    Who needs this crap when you can have a brand spanking new homeless shelter!!

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