We recently learned that over 40% of parents who sought assistance from Arlington Thrive during the pandemic were unable to return to work due to lack of access to affordable childcare. As an organization whose mission is to provide timely assistance to neighbors in need and to help them develop the capacity to be stable, secure and to thrive in their jobs, health and homes, this information was a call to action.
As a result, Arlington Thrive hired a Childcare Coordinator, Ms. Javairia Henry. She works with providers and families to ensure children have the care they need, which allows parents to return to work. Ms. Henry helps both parties to access available subsidies. She also helps families identify a provider that suits their unique needs. Once a match is made, Arlington Thrive bridges the funding gap by paying fees that are not covered by subsidies.
As important as these efforts are, we recognize that Arlington Thrive can and should do more. So, with support from the Washington Forrest Foundation, Northern Virginia Family Service, and George Mason University, we hosted a panel discussion that brought together almost 100 national experts, caregivers, and local stakeholders on October 26th. Our objective was to identify actionable steps that could be taken in concert with other members of our community to improve access to affordable childcare in Arlington. The panel was comprised of:
- Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” DeMulder, Professor of Education, George Mason University;
- Anne Hedgepeth, Deputy Chief of Policy, Child Care Aware;
- Malinda Langford, Senior Vice President, Northern Virginia Family Service; and
- Rasheed Malik, Senior Director, Center for American Progress.
It was moderated by Krysta Jones, Founder of Vote Lead Impact, and introductory remarks were made by Arlington County Board Chair, Katie Cristol.
The wide-ranging conversation which ensued raised many key issues affecting access to childcare in Arlington. Among the constraints identified by the panel were: inadequate supply of infant and toddler care, insufficient compensation and benefits for childcare workers, and a complex subsidy system which is challenging for providers and families to navigate alone. However, one of the most important lessons imparted by the panelists was the fact that no one entity can solve this problem on its own. Quality childcare is a community effort which requires open communication and trust amongst parents, children, and educators.
For Arlington Thrive, this discussion was an important first step. We will continue to engage local and national stakeholders, and work with our partners, to: develop a comprehensive strategy to improve access to affordable childcare in Arlington; and define Thrive’s role in this process.
In the meantime, please watch the video, stay tuned for further developments, and connect with us on social media to participate in, and continue, the conversation around affordable childcare.