Monica Jones moved from North Carolina to Fairfax County because she wants her children to have a good education. Now she fears she may have to move back to North Carolina.
"I want my daughter to have a better education," said Jones. "If my day care help gets taken away, my daughter will suffer," she said. Jones, a full-time employee at INPUT in Reston, struggles to cover the cost of living in Northern Virginia, and needs child care assistance. She began to cry as she explained she feared she would fail as a parent if her children did not get a good education.
Many Fairfax County parents are affected by the cuts in child care funding the county experienced last year. Fairfax County Director of the Office for Children, Judith Rosen, said in 2005 there were 7,000 children in the county's child care assistance program. Last year the county lost $13 million in child care subsidies, losing 2,000 children from the program. Next year, said Rosen, the county is set to lose another $2.7 million and around 950 children. There were no children on the waiting list for the program in October 2005, but now there are 3,550 children on the waiting list.
Rosen was a member of a four-person panel discussing the issues related to child care cuts at Reston's Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebrations. The discussion took place at the Reston Community Center on Monday.
The cuts affect the ability of working class parents to keep their jobs, because they need to take care of their children as well. Rosen said child care costs an estimated $12,000 per year. "Even for middle class families, child care is not affordable," said Rosen.
Bernice Mayfield runs A Place Like Home, a family child care business. She said she has come to expect priorities such as quick emergency services, clean water and clean air from the government and without hiring a contractor. "We need to elevate our babies to the priority list," said Mayfield. She added that child care providers tend to look at the economic stability of a parent before admitting a child to their programs. The parents who lose the backing of the government decrease the chance of their child being admitted to a program. "It is illegal and immoral to deny services to anyone based on their income levels," said Mayfield. However, she said, that does not always hold true in the real world.
THE CUTS ARE the result of stricter regulations for families in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. The new regulations force people in the program to go to work sooner than they used to, enlarging the number of children who need child care. Rosen said the government budget office estimated the new regulations would cost $10 billion over 10 years, but the federal government only pledged to give $1 billion over the 10-year period. The state governments are required to serve the new population in need, so Virginia is not able to send as much money to Fairfax County for the child care subsidies.
Mayfield said many parents are having to make the tough decision to stay at home instead of staying at a job. The parents discussed how to better campaign for the funding to be reinstated.
"Make some noise," said Beverly Cosham, a member of the RCC Board of Governors. "We're being nice and polite. We need to stand up and say, 'I'm angry,'" she said. Cosham added she personally is not affected by the cuts, but that she believes the money should be provided for those who need it.
"We've got to lobby the Board of Supervisors," said Reston resident Lawrence Bussey. He said the state would not provide the necessary money.
Rosen commented that traditionally the state had not offered more money than it was requested to give.
Some of the parents wondered why the No Child Left Behind law is not applicable in the child care funding. "No Child Left Behind should go beyond education. It should also be about the quality of life," said Lura Woodley, a parent of three who attend the Laurel Learning Center in Reston.
Aminah Coleman, a mother of four children, said she had to leave her job to take care of her children. "I made too much to get food stamps, but not enough to provide," she said. "It [the cuts] becomes a bigger picture."
PARENTS AND OTHERS who are concerned about the issue are planning a trip to Richmond on Monday, Jan. 22, to lobby the General Assembly for more money. On the same day, the group will hold a rally in front of the Laurel Learning Center in Reston, at 6 p.m.
Mayfield said the lobbying should be taken to the national level. Cosham suggested the group does more than lobby the local representatives. "Look at all the women we have in Congress. Write them letters," she said. "Let them know there is a problem."
Ellen Graves said a lot of people do not know about the issues and problems caused by the cuts.
"Folks for child care don't have a voice, that's the issue," said Bussey. "There's a child care crisis."
Rosen encouraged the group to lobby with the faith groups. She said when child care first came up as an issue in the 1960s, it was the faith groups who brought it to the attention of the politicians. "They are a tremendous source," said Rosen.
The details of the group's agenda and meetings in Richmond are still being worked out. For more information visit Reston Interfaith's Web site at www.restoninterfaith.org or contact Julie Brunson at 703-787-3130 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.