Nidiah Walker's three children attend the Laurel Learning Center Day Care in Reston, but soon she may have to pull them out of the program. Cuts in child care subsidies could make day care too expensive for her.
"This is a serious, serious, issue, and I can't stress that enough," said Walker, fearing she may have to lose her job in order to take care of her children during the day. "For me to lose [the child care subsidy], I'm going to lose my job, I'm going to be on welfare," she said at the Save Our Child Care rally at the center on Monday night, held after a group of parents returned from Richmond where they lobbied for preservation of child care subsidies. Walker urged those attending the rally to tell everyone they know, especially elected officials, about the issue. She warned that subsidy cuts affect everyone, even those who do not rely on it for day care programs. "You're going to be affected by this somehow. You might not know it yet, but you will be affected," she said.
Naomi Collins, a Northern Virginia woman who works with a local women's ministry group, said a lot of the women she works with rely on child care subsidies. "Not only will I be affected, but at least 40 percent of women who come through [my ministry group] wouldn't be self-sufficient without child care help," said Collins.
The group of parents who returned from Richmond told other parents about their trip and urged them to write to their legislators. "We need help," said Lura Woodley whose three children attend the center while she works a full-time job and attends school. "Without child care subsidy, this wouldn't be possible," she said. Woodley added that middle and lower class income families are facing a crisis, as many parents may have to lose jobs in order to take care of their own children.
THE GROUP THAT returned from Richmond said the legislators received them well. Collins said the group was able to visit with many legislators' offices. She told the parents attending the rally to write about the issue to as many people as possible. "If enough people talk about it, and make some noise, it will get to the politicians and it will make a difference," said Collins.
"Right now the best thing you can do is to write to your legislators," said Julie Brunson of Reston Interfaith.
Reston Interfaith CEO Kerrie Wilson said she came back from Richmond with a lot of hope. However, warned Wilson, a transportation plan that is under consideration could take money from the state's general fund to solve the transportation crisis. The general fund provides money for child care and other programs. Wilson said she applauds the efforts of the legislators to solve the transportation issues, but warned that a solution cannot come over the backs of child care and other programs that are so important to people. She said transportation and child care issues could not be waged against one another. "It's not that one is more important than the other. They're both part of what makes the quality of life here so good," said Wilson. She added that the estimated $12,000 a year needed for child care is the second highest cost to families. The only cost that is more expensive is housing.
Courtney Park, the director of Laurel Learning Center, said she hopes the legislators in Richmond will realize that nothing is more important than the future of children. "First five years are critical," said Park, pointing to numerous studies suggesting early education is important for children's development. "It is a key to a successful life," she said.
A PARENT at the rally urged other parents to tell personal stories when they write to their legislators. "Each story is important," said Cristy Seidu. "Please don't let this be a time when you're scared [to talk] because our children need you," said Seidu.
Sandra Nakayuba urged the parents to move quickly, as the General Assembly is already in session. "The decisions that are going to be made are going to be made very soon," said Nakayuba.
Statewide there are 36,000 children served by child care subsidies. Another 13,000 are on the waiting list. Roughly 3,000 children are on the waiting list in Fairfax County. The county is set to lose an estimated $2.7 million more in child care subsidies, which would put almost 1,000 more children on the waiting list. Brunson said the parents have to either work or be in school in order to receive the subsidy.