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Task force sets goal: Quality child care for all by 2030

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Child care isn’t just child care; it’s vital to the health of the Virginia economy.

“Access to early childhood care and education is essential for a thriving economy,” said Stephen Moret, the president & CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and the co-chair of the Back to Work VA Task Force, which on Friday set itself hurtling toward a 10-year effort to guarantee access to quality child care to every Virginia family, regardless of income.

The disruption from the response to COVID-19 has brought the impact of our lack of adequate commitment to child care to the forefront.

Virginia Congressman Don Beyer, the chair of the Joint Economic Committee, has been working to bring attention to the inadequacies of our current approach.

His committee issued a report in September that highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it have devastated child care providers in a way that could permanently damage the industry.

The report made it clear that one of the key factors holding back the U.S. recovery is that more parents, particularly mothers, are having to choose between going to work and ensuring their children have safe, quality care.

According to a summertime poll, 13 percent of parents have been forced to reduce hours or quit their jobs because of problems with child care, losing a full day of work per week on average.

“Workers cannot get back to work if there is nowhere to send their children,” Beyer said. “This is particularly true for working mothers who are more likely to bear the brunt of closed schools and child care providers. In fact, because of the impact that the coronavirus has had on the child care industry, a generation of social and economic gains made by women may be rolled back in a matter of months.

Deborah DiCroce, Back to Work VA Task Force co-chair and president & CEO of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, said COVID-19 is “showing in stark terms the vital role child care and early education plays in our lives.

“It’s imperative that Virginia prioritize this industry not only to give all our children an equal access to opportunity, but for the overall strength of our communities,” DiCroce said.

The Task Force roster includes top Virginia leaders from business, government, philanthropy and communities, whose work was informed by Virginia and national experts on child care and early learning issues.

“It’s simply not acceptable to leave behind the children and families who cannot afford to access quality child care education programs,” State Sen. Janet Howell said. “Virginia is making progress, but we also need to re-imagine our early childhood system from a longer point of view. That’s why I was so excited to hear about the Task Force’s bold goal that every child can access quality early childhood programs by 2030. We can do this,” Howell said.

“Early childhood learning is the foundation for future success,” said State Del. Luke Torian, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Access to quality early learning programs is the best way to realize the potential of every child in the Commonwealth and make sure that no one is left behind,” Torian said.

The Task Force also announced on Friday the formation of the Virginia Promise Partnership, a coalition of leading organizations committed to working together to accomplish the goal.

The Partnership will develop a plan to ensure all Virginia families have access to affordable quality child care by 2030 and undertake a comprehensive advocacy plan to make it happen.

The Partnership, which continues to grow, currently consists of: Child Care Aware of Virginia, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, Early Care & Education Consortium, Neimand Collaborative, Robins Foundation, Save the Children Action Network, Virginia Alliance for Family Child Care Associations, Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Alliance of YMCAs, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, Virginia Child Care Association, Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, Virginia Education Association, Virginia First Cities, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Virginia PTA, Virginia Partnership for Out-ofSchool Time and Voices for Virginia’s Children.

The work of the Task Force paid particular attention to the needs of providers and educators.

“As someone who has worked in the field of early childhood for many years, I am happy to be part of this ambitious vision and bold goal for Virginia,” said Tammy Mann, president & CEO of the Campagna Center.

“Particularly in this time of uncertainty, we need to recognize the profound influence of early educators on Virginia’s next generation. They are the workforce that supports all other workforces and they deserve our very best,” Mann said.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press