Excuse me while I veer into “mom blog” territory but this topic is one where my personal life and professional life intersect.
This past August I had my first child (Andy pictured above). Well before Andy arrived I was concerned about what we would do for day care. Of course I planned to work shortly after he was born, the kids of Virginia, and our bank account, needed me to, but there is the nagging question of what to do for infant care. Despite knowing for a long time to be prepared for sticker shock, and limited options, I hadn’t fully explored what was available for infant care.
So I did what most my moms do… I asked my friends for recommendations. And then I called around. Of course, the most sought after program wasn’t accepting infants unless they were siblings. I looked at faith-based programs. I visited nationally accredited, star rated centers. I even checked out an illegally operating family day care home and an unregulated neighbor that other neighbors used as a paid caregiver. These options were equally astronomical in cost- from $200-275 per week. But they were not equal in their safety or quality.
Just consider my options for care as a sample. I live in heart of the City of Richmond and for what was available, and recommended to me, caregivers were flying completely below the radar. I had an infant, who could not speak up for himself, or voice his preference, that I wanted to be fed, clean, happy and SAFE while I was at work. I had to choose between licensed, inspected well-trained care that also had a waiting list, where I couldn’t enroll Andy until months after I’d returned to work, or completely unregulated care available immediately. Luckily for us I didn’t have to make that choice when my mother-in-law swept in and has been a wonderful caregiver. But many families are not as lucky.
At the same time I was making this decisions I was reading about those families’ stories and tragedy in the paper. The Ngo family in Roanoke featured in the Washington Post’s investigation of safety in child care, the Lynchburg day care fire and, closest to home, the Allen family in Midlothian. These families were like me, forced in the Catch-22 for infant care options. They wanted the best for their children, but they had to go back to work and needed to find someone to care for their children. They were paying these caregivers, why wouldn’t they except they would have their children’s safety in mind?
These stories are spurring change. The families impacted are healing while in the process of becoming advocates. These coming few weeks the General Assembly will be acting on bills that could make child care safer and broaden the spectrum of options for working parents. We hope that our elected officials will chose to widen the net for the caregivers who must be in compliance with safety regulations, CPR and annual safety checks. The easiest way to do that is to close the loophole that allows small family day care homes to stay unlicensed. Virginia must also put in place fingerprint background checks for licensed caregivers to weed out any providers who should not be caring for children.
If you also want more options for safe child care for your children, grandchildren and neighbors, help us spread the word.
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