Survey seeks input on child care options, affordability

Hans Riemer, Flickr photo via mdfriendofhillary Councilmember Hans Riemer said he put one of his sons on a waiting list for a child care center and didn’t hear back until two years later.

He also hears another refrain when it comes to those expecting a newborn : “You better put your kid on the list before you have one,” Riemer said.

“My experience has been a lot of people don’t find they choices they are really hoping for,” Riemer said.

The at-large member of Council with a 3-year-old and 6-year-old of his own released a survey on Thursday seeking input from county residents on child care availability and affordability. In the email blast that accompanied the survey, Riemer wrote that the county isn’t doing enough to provide child care center space, especially in planned school construction projects.

“In 2012, I passed a law requiring the county to assess the feasibility of including child care in all of its new building projects, and I added an incentive for providing child care to our zoning code for new development,” Riemer wrote. “In the current budget, I suggested to my colleagues that we require child care in every new school project unless it was found to be cost-prohibitive or impossible to fit in because of site conditions. And I have been working with child care providers to ensure fair procedures for bidding out public space to their programs.”

But of the 28 major school renovation or expansion projects in the capital construction budget, only two are scheduled to include space dedicated to child care centers.

According to the 2012 Census, Montgomery County had 65,162 residents under the age of 5. According to a 2013 study by the Maryland Family Network, licensed child care providers in the county had space for only 26,719 children.

“We want to understand, just from a big picture level, do people feel like there is sufficient child care in the county and if there is, do people feel like the waiting lists and expenses are indicative of a real problem,” Riemer said. “We’d like to be able to distinguish between a real problem that families are struggling with and something that’s just kind of normal.”

The survey how easy it is for parents to find quality child care, how affordable it is and provides a list of possible issues with the process.

The Maryland Family Network report also found that the average cost of child care for a two-children family is $25,234 in Montgomery County, more than $2,000 a month and the highest amount in the state.

Riemer hopes the survey can provide some evidence of the need for action on the issue. Based on his past proposals, it seems likely his main aim will be providing more child care space in MCPS schools.

“Space is important because when we talk to child care providers, what they say over and over again is that their biggest challenge is finding space,” Riemer said. “Schools are built on public property with public funds. We don’t really have a strong public policy for child care and the providers are kind of scrambling.”

You can find the survey here.

Flickr photo via mdfriendofhillary

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