West Virginia’s childcare providers are facing an uncertain future. With COVID-related changes to reimbursement rates, child care providers were able to stay open, but, with the extension slated to end and policy addressing the state’s child care reimbursement rates failing to move during legislative session, many local child care providers are reaching out to their communities for support.
Community town halls have been held across the state during April and May, with Lewisburg on Thursday, May 11. The Lewisburg event, the seventh across the state, is being co-hosted by Monroe Day Care Center and Little Learners. These town halls have provided communities with a firsthand look at some of the obstacles childcare providers face and a chance to hear how important child care is for families and local businesses. There have also been options available for community members to show their support. “Childcare is truly the backbone of families working and going to school. Many times, centers work on a shoestring budget, but the center always puts the children first,” says Michelle McFall of Monroe Daycare Center. “It’s time our state put childcare first, too.”
According to Child Care Aware of America and TEAM For West Virginia Children, 42.6% of West Virginia children under the age of six need but cannot access childcare. West Virginia rates 50th in the nation for childcare accessibility, and 64% of West Virginia families live in a childcare desert. https://teamwv.org/childcaremap
“In a state with one of- if not the- lowest workforce participation rates, childcare is absolutely an economic justice issue,” states community organizer Amy Jo Hutchison, representing MomsRising and the leader of the grassroots movement Rattle The Windows. “Without access to affordable and quality childcare, families cannot work. People and businesses won’t move into a state that does not have even the beginnings of a care infrastructure, and childcare is an integral part of that.”
Inspired by a national day of action, “A Day Without Child Care Town Halls” have been held throughout the state during the months of April and May in Wheeling, Oak Hill, Harpers Ferry, Weirton, Bridgeport, South Charleston, and Lewisburg. On May 8th, A Day Without Child Care was observed across the nation, and several West Virginia providers participated in various activities. “We are the work force behind the work force,” said McFall of Monroe Day Care Center. A list of dates and locations can be found on the WV Association for Young Children website and Facebook page.
West Virginia childcare providers are thankful for the state’s decision to extend enrollment-based reimbursements for another year, which was announced earlier this month, but they realize that it is another temporary fix rather than a permanent solution. “We need our communities to understand how important childcare is to our communities. Imagine the impact a day without childcare would have on our local and state economies,” stated Kristy Ritz, Executive Director of West Virginia Association for Young Children.
The event in Lewisburg will be held Thursday, May 11, at Hollowell Park, 186 Matthews Street. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with the event beginning at 6 p.m. There will be opportunities for people to get involved to show support for WV childcare. Contact the Monroe Daycare Center at 304-772-5240 for more information.