There are 13,425 young children in Arlington. There are 6,894 spots for child care facilities. This means for nearly half of the children in Arlington, there is no option for day care. For as professional-driven a community as Arlington, this is a problem.
One year ago, Arlington staff was tasked with conducting an analysis of the lack of childcare facilities and creating an action plan. At a July 24 County Board meeting, the action plan was presented to a County Board work session.
The Child Care Initiative (CCI) breaks the problem down into three areas: accessibility, availability, and quality. Access to young child care is especially difficult for lower income families. The CCI proposes that Arlington increase its involvement with subsidy-approved child care programs. Part of this is surveying existing child care programs that do not accept subsidized families and determining why. The plan also calls for Arlington Public Schools’ Extended Day Program to accept state-funded child care subsidies. Ultimately the CCI says Arlington will need to identify and quantify the need for increased local funding to state subsidy programs. Part of the accessibility includes connecting families of children with special needs or cultural and language differences with subsidies and affordable child care options.
But making them aware of affordable child care options means little if Arlington can’t increase the availability of child care. The CCI calls for the county government to review the general land use plan, zoning ordinance and the permit review process to encourage and streamline the process for creating a child care facility. The CCI also says the county government needs to look into increasing the supply of child care workers.
Several members of the County Board noted that work in child care is a low-paying position, which can make finding employees for these facilities difficult. The average salary for a child care worker is $26,000, which staff said puts child care workers in the bottom 10 percent of income for workers in Arlington.
For the final piece of the action plan, the CCI calls on Arlington County to review increase training and certification opportunities. The CCI encourages Arlington County government in taking an active role in nurturing partnerships between local child care facilities with outside certification programs and universities to provide additional training for employees.
Several members of the County Board also noted that there were certain parties involved in early child care that weren’t present in the discussions.
“Businesses have an interest in this,” said County Board Member Libby Garvey. “They should be at the table.”
Garvey said businesses moving into Arlington often take into consideration the day care facilities available for their employees. Garvey said this consideration indicates that businesses could also be involved in providing spaces for child care facilities or incentivizing them.
County Board Chair Katie Cristol said two of the biggest takeaways for the County Board was the salary issue for local child care worker and reaching out to businesses.
“We need to look at finding ways to offer competitive pay [for child care workers],” said Cristol. “And we need to see if we can identify asks for major employers in the county. What would we like them to do, besides just coming to the table?”