Arlington, Virginia has turned back a proposal to eliminate the county’s important child care health and safety standards, thanks to strong advocacy efforts and recognition by County Board members of the importance of protecting our youngest children. The county manager, as part of an effort to address a budget shortfall, had proposed to save $250,000 by eliminating the local Office of Child Care Licensing. But letters and phone calls from the public and research from early childhood experts convinced the County Board that the short-term savings were far outweighed by the benefits of safeguarding children’s well-being.
Arlington County’s child care standards are crucial for ensuring the health and safety of children because Virginia does not set adequate standards of its own. For example, Virginia does not regulate providers caring for fewer than six unrelated children, while Arlington regulates any providers caring for more than three children. Virginia allows a single caregiver in a child care center to be responsible for up to eight two-year-olds, while Arlington allows only five two-year-olds per caregiver. Virginia only requires child care center teachers to have six months of experience and 24 clock hours of education related to the care of children; in contrast, Arlington requires teachers to have two years of college with at least 15 semester hours in child development or early education. (Child Care Aware has a chart comparing the state’s and county’s child care regulations.) Families throughout Arlington are surely relieved that the county will continue to play a role in overseeing the programs that care for their children every day.
As an Arlington resident, I am very happy to see my county continue to offer a model for both policies that protect and promote the well-being of children in child care and effective advocacy efforts on behalf of children. Arlington prides itself on offering a good quality of life for its residents, and this shows that my neighbors and elected leaders know that starts with taking care of our children.