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November 13, 2013

Who’s watching the kids?

Finding a job in this economy can be hard. But for some families unable to find or afford child care, being able to show up for the first day of work may be even harder, especially given recent cuts in child care services and other obstacles thrown in front of parents.

Virginia’s waiting list for affordable child care services more than doubled between 2001 and 2013, increasing to roughly 10,500 children from about 4,300, according to a recent report by the National Women’s Law Center. At the same time that need has skyrocketed, funding for these services has been slashed by close to $40 million, adjusted for inflation.

Parents pay an average of $1,617 each month to put two children into day care if they live in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads or several other high-cost areas. This puts quality day care out of reach for many working families, especially single parents and those earning low wages, causing some to lose their jobs or to put their children in unsafe situations.

The federal government and Virginia help make child care more affordable for some low-income working families through the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. But these resources are increasingly inadequate to meet the growing need.

Throughout the Great Recession, Virginia received additional funding for child care services through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This one-time boost is gone, however, even though median household income remains below pre-recession levels.

And in Virginia you can only get help if you have a job. If you get laid off due to a bad economy and are searching for a job to get back on your feet, you don’t qualify. That means that getting to tomorrow’s job interview may be close to impossible if no one is able to watch the kids.

As middle class and low-income families continue to struggle due to the Great Recession and unemployment remains above pre-recession levels, Congress and Virginia’s elected officials should invest in our families to not only help the economy grow, but also to make sure families can get to work knowing their children are in a nurturing and safe environment.

–Jeffrey Connor-Naylor, Program Director

The Commonwealth Institute

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