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Parents Reveal Safety as Top Concern for Child Care as Virginia Reopens

Voices for Virginia’s Children along with Families Forward and the Virginia PTA announced the results of its parent survey on child care. The survey, offered in English and Spanish, was conducted May 12-17 and had 880 responses from parents and caregivers of children ages 0 to 13 across Virginia.

As Virginia transitions into the second phase of reopening to ease public health restrictions, more parents and care givers have questions about what child care looks like during the summer months. Survey results show that 86 percent of parents are most concerned about the health and safety of their children returning to child care. The uncertainty of the health crisis weighs heavily on the decisions parents have to make to protect and provide for their families.

“The number one concern for parents surveyed was ensuring the health of their children and family and not being exposed to the virus,” said Emily Griffey, policy director for Voices for Virginia’s Children. “Parents are faced with many unknowns about the pandemic and need more guidance to help make the best decisions for their families.”

Availability of child care options continues to concern parents. In early May, 90 percent of parents reported having their children at home with them. More than 70 percent will keep their child home with them in coming months. No more than 16 percent plan to return to child care before July.

Parents also indicated balancing work and family demands, in addition to allowing children to socialize as a top priority. With more educational offerings and health services moving to internet-based platforms, 17 percent of respondents reported poor internet quality or lack of broadband access as the biggest barrier.

“This crisis has highlighted the challenging learning and work environment that students, families and teachers face when they don’t have access to high-speed internet or a computer at home,” said Jenna Alexander, vice president of advocacy for Virginia PTA. “It’s critical that lawmakers expedite funding and align resources to close Virginia’s digital divide.”

The survey also showed that the affordability of child care is a factor. Nearly one-third of families earning less than $4,000 per month – a level at which many families would quality for financial benefits for child care assistance or free and reduced lunch – were more likely to be working on a job site than families not experiencing hardship. They were also more likely to desire financial assistance to afford child care as a “top 3” priority.

“It really does take a village and these results show that Virginia’s families are struggling without a supportive village. That means affordable, accessible child care, and workplace accommodations like paid sick leave,” said Ali Faruk, policy director of Families Forward Virginia.

Overall, families are looking for additional guidance and assistance from government officials to make better decisions. This includes establishing safety guidelines in child care settings, providing resources to ensure safe access and reexamining eligibility policies for those experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19.

“Our economy is dependent on working parents, so child care must be part of the discussion. We’re asking leaders to ensure policy proposals are responsive to the needs of families,” added Griffey.

View the full report and recommendations.

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