HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Emily Griffey is mom to 2-year-old Alli and 5-year-old Andy.
“My husband and I have been working from home and balancing the role of policy director and parent for last few months,” Griffey said.
Besides her full-time job as a mom, Griffey also works to shape policy through Voices for Virginia’s Children.
The nonprofit ensures families have access to child care so working parents can continue working.
“Two thirds of parents in Virginia are working outside the home and need some kind of child care,” said Griffey.
The industry, however, took a major hit with the COVID crisis.
According to ChildCareRelief.org, 45% of licensed child care centers in Virginia are at risk of closing.
“The margins there are so tight that when you lose a few kids in a classroom suddenly, does that mean you have to close another classroom or close down your program and that’s where that risk of disappearing comes into play,” Griffey said. “There isn’t a ton of overhead in the child care sector. It really needs other public support to sustain.”
Primrose School at Cahoon Commons is a private preschool located in Chesapeake. Co-owner Tonya Gill admitted the pandemic has put a strain on their operating budget. She said with current restrictions in place, they’re not able to accommodate about 40% of their families.
“Our phones started ringing about two weeks ago from families and parents in a panic because now they have to go back to work, and they don’t have quality child care for their children,” said Gill. “It breaks my heart to say no, not right now; not right now.”
Despite some hardships, Gill said the Primrose Schools are holding on strong and looking forward to welcoming more families as part of the state’s third phase of reopening.
The child care center, like many others, is taking extra measures to keep kids safe, including sanitizing toys and checking temperatures.
“For our kiddos in the building, there’s nothing new for them,” Gill said. “They’re used to washing their hands; they love washing their hands. Teachers are washing their hands; we use gloves."
Meantime, to keep more provider doors open, Griffey said she will continue to advocate for more state and federal funding.
Families across Virginia looking for child care can call 1-866-KIDS-TLC or visit Child Care Aware of Virginia.