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Financial Assistance, Zoning Changes Part of Plan to Improve Child Care Options

A draft action plan on child care in Arlington County has found that it must be more accessible to all income levels, have more spaces available and have better quality and safety for all.

Among other things, it suggested developing a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs, updating the county’s zoning ordinance to encourage more facilities and supporting more professional development for child care providers.

The plan found that there are 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but 13,435 children under the age of 5 in the county. Of those, approximately 1,400 live at or below the federal poverty level.

It also found that some areas of the county — particularly in some southern neighborhoods — are underserved right now. In the last few months, the Arlington County Board has approved a slew of new daycare facilities, with one on Lee Highway the subject of a lawsuit brought by neighbors opposed to the new facility.

“There are indications from the community that there is a significant gap between supply and demand,” the plan reads. “Challenges to starting new child care businesses and expanding existing ones have also been reported.”

The draft action plan follows a study begun this fall by county staff. Under the fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee joined the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the county announced the launch of its Child Care Initiative, as well as a CCI Leadership Roundtable and a CCI Work Group. The Roundtable, a collection of 22 people with knowledge of local and state regulations, will meet each quarter, while the Work Group will meet each month. Both will look to refine the plan ahead of County Board approval in the future.

County staff will host a kick-off meeting for the initiative on January 25 at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

“We’re looking forward to opening the doors for a community conversation about how to achieve our goal of a childcare system that effectively serves and supports all Arlington County families. This draft action plan offers specific ideas and concrete steps to meet that goal,” County Board vice chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “We’re inviting everyone in to give feedback and help fine-tune this action plan, and to be part of the solution to the childcare challenge facing our families and local economy.”

Community members can share feedback in the following ways:

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