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.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
The Arlington County Board and the Human Rights Commission are at odds over whether commissioners had the right to request an investigation into possible human and civil rights violations at…
Expanded renovated 4 BR 3 bath with garage in Cardinal Swanson Yorktown pyramid
Rep. Don Beyer is taking a leading role in Congress to address what he says is one of the most pressing issues this century: the regulation of artificial intelligence. This…
The Potomac Roasting Company is a local micro-roaster specializing in artisan coffee. We precision roast high-quality specialty beans sourced from small farms in Latin America that are owned and operated by women. Your coffee will be roasted the way you want it and delivered fresh.
As two former Peace Corps volunteers who served in Guatemala, we founded Potomac Roasting to pursue our passion for great coffee and purpose-driven work. In addition to ethically sourcing our beans, we also donate a portion of our profits to Laila’s Legacy Animal Rescue, a DC-based nonprofit that finds homes for homeless dogs and cats.
Our current roasts come from prime coffee-producing regions of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. We will be adding new roasts soon. If you are local, there’s a good chance we can deliver to your door. Look for us at local farmers’ markets beginning this spring. In the meantime, check us out now for better coffee and good karma in a cup. You can use the code Community and save 10%.
🎉 Tonight, we invite you to the French Riviera, one of the most exciting places on earth – without ever boarding a plane! And celebrate Mardi Gras and the Carnival of Nice on French soil as we welcome you to a special evening at the Embassy of France!
From the elegance of classical French culture to the most celebrated Rivera nightlife of the 21st Century, experience a special evening of fantastic French food, wine, music, and ambiance.
Enjoy the flavors of Nice, Monaco, and St. Tropez in the beautiful and festive Maison Francaise at the French Embassy.
🍽️ On the Menu: Delicious French food
Cody Chance and Dick Nathan of Long & Foster are hosting a free workshop on the topic of “down-sizing” at their office on Cherry Hill Rd. (formerly Lee Highway) in Arlington on Thursday, February 29 from 5:30PM-7:00PM.
Every great endeavor