Submit Content

Progressive Voice: Arlington’s Childcare Shortage — Making Changes That Count

Progressive Voice is a biweekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Katie Cristol

You don’t have to be a parent of young children to appreciate the value of accessible, affordable and quality childcare.

A healthy childcare market supports families and also supports economic development — for large employers and for the small entrepreneurs behind childcare businesses — and can improve outcomes for young learners. Unfortunately, as community leader Anne O’Brien effectively described in ARLnow a year and a half ago, Arlington County’s supply of childcare, while high-quality, has been scarce and too often inaccessible.

Over the past two years, a coalition of providers, nonprofits, County staff and parents have spent hundreds of hours on the priorities in our Child Care Initiative Action Plan. Our theory is that these steps, such as eliminating zoning ordinance and regulatory barriers to opening and expanding childcare, as well as supporting providers in improving their staffing and training, can increase the supply of quality, affordable and accessible childcare in Arlington.

Making systemic changes to help all people succeed is a core progressive value. Just as important is taking a hard-nosed look at whether those changes are having the desired effect. So how are we doing?

The Childcare Initiative has been anchored in data. We began with a Demographic Risk and Reach study, which found that affordability is a huge concern for middle-class as well as low income families in Arlington. For two children in center-based care, child care expenses are 38% of our median income for a family of four — more than seven times the threshold that the federal government describes as “affordable.”

Supply shortages were worse than we thought: Known capacity is sufficient to serve only 54% of Arlington’s children under five, despite data indicating that most Arlington children live in families where all parents work. These gaps between supply and need were greatest in the 22204 zip code. This is particularly concerning, given that neighborhoods in 22204 are home to Arlington’s most vulnerable children and families.

These data — paired with extensive qualitative data from providers and parents about their greatest needs — were the basis for the policy changes that my County Board colleagues and I adopted this spring and summer.

We have some early indicators that our efforts are starting to work. Arlington saw a net increase of 247 spots in the initial year of the Childcare Initiative, most in South Arlington where they are most needed. Now with the code changes having taken effect July 1, we expect those numbers will increase significantly. Within just a couple of months of the changes, 30 family day care homes had submitted requests to expand. In support of our quality goals, 327 Arlington childcare spots were newly quality- rated in 2018, a 33% increase over the prior year.

As the Childcare Initiative “grows up,” the real measure will be if there are more high-quality spots available to families all over the County.

So, we’re debuting a dashboard to monitor what counts. That includes big-picture measures of availability (total capacity, capacity by ZIP code, and the percent of children in the County that can be served). It also includes progress on accessibility: How many students with special needs are being served? How many low-income families with subsidies are accessing quality care? Is back-up childcare, or childcare during nontraditional hours, increasing?

We won’t transform our childcare landscape overnight. But our childcare reforms are grounded in data, and it is data that will let us know whether these reforms are making a difference that counts.

A final note, since the policy is personal for Arlington families: If you’re looking for childcare in Arlington, you should know that we also re-launched our online directory, allowing filtering by languages spoken, type of care and subsidy acceptance.

Katie Cristol is a member of the Arlington County Board.

Recent Stories

An art installation in the shadow of the under-construction first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 is getting taller. Last month, crews began laying the groundwork to build “Queen City” by Nekisha…

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop in Rosslyn appears to have made its last sub. The Delaware-founded and currently Las Vegas-based fast-casual sandwich chain seems to have closed its eatery on the ground…

It’s almost as automatic as Steph Curry draining free throws at this point. Whenever there’s a soaking rainfall, it seems that some drivers cannot help but slide off the road…

Morning Notes

Boy Struck By Driver — “13yo boy on bike struck in crosswalk. S Carlin Springs Rd & 3rd St South, Arlington, VA… Driver did stay on scene. Severity of injuries…

INF Care Virtual Concierge is a new and inviting option to remote assistance that leverages the best of what technology should encompass with quality interaction.

For the busy individual that needs a way to reduce stress and tackle caring for an older family member that lives alone.

or

For the maturing adult that just needs help with everyday tedious tasks, connectivity, and access to data on their everyday habits to pinpoint areas that need more attention.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Looking for a more convenient way to work out?

On the Go Fitness Pro offers in home personal training. We bring the gym to you, so you can save time and skip the hassle of going to the gym. Plus, our trainers are certified and experienced, so you can be sure you’re getting the best possible workout.

We provide all the equipment needed for a great workout or we can use the equipment that you have.

Schedule a free consultation today and see how we can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Mini Photo Sessions for Family & Pets

Mini Family & Pet Photo Sessions
Beat the rush and sign up to get your holiday photos now!

Bring your kids! Bring your dogs!

Check out the DeSilva Studios website. Look at the images and see if you like them

Vini Franchetti Wine Dinner

Join us as we explore Vini Franchetti & their two sister vineyards Passopisciaro (Sicily) and Vini Franchetti (Tuscany) for our Sicily/Tuscany Wine Dinner!

Sunday, Oct 9 @ 6pm

Special Guest: This wine dinner we will be hosting the wine maker

×

Subscribe to our mailing list