Arlington eyes inspection cuts at daycare centers

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Budget cuts could put some kids in danger in Arlington, Va. where the office that oversees small daycare facilities could be eliminated.

Arlington is one of three communities in Virginia that regulates small in home day care facilities that have five or fewer children. Alexandria and Fairfax County are the others.

A proposed budget from the county manager aimed at closing a $25 million to $50 million budget shortfall would eliminate the office and the three people who conduct criminal background and safety checks on owners and their homes.

Marie Mosby, the president of Virginia’s Child Care Association and who also runs the Miss P-Nut’s House in South Arlington, says there’s concern that unqualified and even dangerous operators could set up shop if the 40-year-old county licensing requirements are eliminated.

“People will go over their five [child] limit and endanger their children because perhaps their facility is physically too small,” she says.

The inspectors can drop into a child care facility unannounced has been a major deterrent against people breaking the rules, she says.

Daycare centers with more than five children come under state regulations.

Arlington County boardmember Mary Hynes, who has worked in the early childcare field for more than 25 years, says she was surprised to see this proposal among the budget cuts.

“The power that the board has is to ask the manager to look in different places or ultimately to raise taxes,” she says.

She says she has been getting lots of complaints from parents and people in the child care field.

Hynes says the state should be taking more of a lead in inspecting day care centers noting that Child Care Aware of American, a national advocacy group, has given Virginia an F for not dealing with family home care centers.

Cutting the county office that does the checks could save $250,000 a year.

The Arlington County Board has a budget hearing scheduled for March 26 and is expected to approve a budget by April 20.

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