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Virginia initiative will empower parents with childcare options after federal funding expiration

Rebecca Barnabi
childcare preschool
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The Building Blocks for Virginia Families initiative will empower parents with childcare choice, reduce red tape, expand available childcare options for parents, and provide needed support for parents to continue in the workforce.

The expiration of federal funding at the end of September 2023 put 27,000 children at risk of losing access to quality care. Through Building Blocks for Virginia Families, every eligible child will be able to continue to access high quality options that meet their family’s specific childcare needs and Virginia will remain the national leader in innovative approaches to quality early education and childcare.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the initiative yesterday.

“Building Blocks for Virginia Families will ensure families can choose the early option that best supports their children in their most formative years and enter school ready to learn,” Youngkin said. “By prioritizing parent choice and cutting red tape for families and providers, we are delivering a best-in-class model for early learning and childcare.”

Through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, Virginia used $794 million to expand childcare and early education programs. In the past two years, funds were invested to support parents’ post-COVID return to the workforce by increasing parent choice and fully implementing one of the nation’s strongest early learning data quality measurement and continuous improvement systems.

The Commission, staffed by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (ECF), created a series of guiding principles and recommendations which informed the development of the Building Blocks for Virginia Families approach. They incorporated findings from a recent Vanderbilt University study that found a significant ROI on the learning investments from Virginia’s early childhood programs.

“Today, we open the door to the next era of early care and education in the Commonwealth. Government cannot be the sole answer to every challenge including ensuring access to quality childcare,” said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera. “The Building Blocks for Virginia Families plan is about public and private stakeholders coming together. We will address childcare deserts, early childhood provider shortages and introduce innovation and partnerships into how we pay for childcare for a sustainable system.”

President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation Kathy Glazer said that yesterday was a great day for Virginia.

“Gov. Youngkin has made a bold commitment to sustaining Virginia’s best-in-class public-private parent choice system through seminal investment and innovative reforms. The Youngkin Administration has clearly recognized the importance of keeping Virginia’s families ‘whole’ with childcare services that support their children’s school readiness, their own reliable workforce participation, and the productivity of businesses in communities across the Commonwealth. Alongside our Ready Regions and Mixed Delivery partners, we are proud to continue to work with and support the efforts of the Administration through steady access to high-quality early childhood care and education services for Virginia’s families,” Glazer said.

Building Blocks for Virginia Families builds on Virginia’s strong foundation and expands a marketplace to serve more families across the Commonwealth.

Key attributes of the plan are:

  • Ensure every low-income working family currently receiving public support continues to have access to high quality early childhood and after school programs with over $448 million annually in total investment
  • Strengthen parent choice—of home-providers, public school preschools, community co-ops, church programs, and private day centers
  • Create an innovative childcare payment system driven by parents that making it easier for employers, philanthropies, local governments, community partners and families to contribute and support the success of Virginia’s early learners
  • Cut unnecessary red tape for providers so they can operate effectively, efficiently, and safely
  • Eliminate childcare deserts by infusing $25 million to refurbish excess space at our colleges to launch new early learning hubs
  • Reduce childcare educator shortages by maintaining $1 million scholarship program to increase the skills of Virginia’s early education workforce and $10 million per year for direct-to-childcare educator incentives that have been shown to reduce teacher shortages and increase educator retention in childcare

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.