Child care unaffordable for most Va. families with young children, state report says

Child care is unaffordable for the majority of Virginia families with young children, and nearly all of the state’s low-income families with young children, according to a new report by the state’s oversight agency of the Virginia General Assembly.

The Oct. 16 report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, “Virginia’s Self-Sufficiency Programs and the Availability and Affordability of Child Care,” seeks to “review the effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s programs for helping poor Virginians improve their employment and wages and make progress toward self-sufficiency.”

Child care is unaffordable to 85% of Virginia families with infants, 82% of families with toddlers and 74% of families with preschoolers, according to the report.

For low-income Virginians, the percentages are even higher: child care is unaffordable for 98% of families with infants and toddlers, and 97% with preschoolers, the report said.

The JLARC report says full-time formal child care in Virginia costs between $100 and $440 per week, per child on average.

“In all regions of the state, for most types of child care and for both one-adult and two-adult households, child care costs surpass 10 percent of median income. This exceeds what the federal government has deemed affordable, which is child care costs accounting for 7 percent or less of household income,” the report said.

However, in Northern Virginia, the costs of one infant in child care can account for 28% of the entire income in a one-parent household, and 11% in a home with two parents.

The situation could soon worsen with the end of pandemic-era grants and subsidy programs, which reimbursed providers for care they provide to children from low-income families.

In addition, “there are not enough subsidy slots to meet demand, and it can be challenging — sometimes impossible — for eligible families to find a vendor who either accepts the child care subsidy or has available subsidy slots,” the report said.

Recommendations in the report include streamlining and reducing paperwork for providers to be reimbursed for participating in the subsidy program.

Other recommendations include limiting to 90 days per job loss occurrence the amount of time families can receive assistance through the subsidy program while they are searching for full-time work, “to ensure that the limited slots are as available as possible to already-employed parents.”

Democratic Virginia U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said he’s committed to finding ways to deal with the multi-faceted situation.

“In every region of Virginia, parents tell me about how difficult it is to find high-quality, affordable child care. This report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission underscores what I’m hearing and reaffirms that we have to do more to address the child care crisis, which is holding families, workers, and our economy back,” Kaine said in a statement.

“I’m going to continue working in Congress to pass my legislation to expand access to child care, raise wages for child care workers so they stay in the field, and extend vital child care funding to help providers keep their doors open,” Kaine said. “This crisis isn’t going to go away unless we act.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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