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How a Henrico program is expanding access to childcare

How a Henrico program is expanding access to childcare
Posted at 11:32 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 23:32:25-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- As many daycare centers filled up and experts cited childcare costs and access as a factor in the post-pandemic worker shortage, an Eastern Henrico daycare said they were in need of more students.

Meanwhile, a Henrico program worked to break down barriers to childcare access.

"So, this is our preschool room, we haven’t had any students here as well. Not one," said Miss Ree, Director for Amazing Grace Childcare as she led CBS 6 on a tour through the building.

"Not a single child in this room," she said. "March it was empty. Now it’s almost July and it's still empty."

Miss Ree said the daycare opened in March with a capacity for up to 50 students. On a good day, it averaged about 13.

She said not only was the daycare experiencing a shortage in children but teachers as well.

"Without the students, we can’t hire the teachers, so it’s not just us, it’s a lot of daycares that are going through it right now," Miss Ree said. "And this pandemic has not helped."

Miss Ree said the daycare offered financial assistance like subsidies to make daycare affordable and wanted people to know that they were there to help.

Meanwhile, some other daycare centers have reported long waiting lists. Dental Assistant Monique Smith said it took her about three months of searching for a daycare before she found Amazing Grace for her one-year-old.

"It was difficult. Everywhere was packed, packed to capacity," Smith said. "They were just crazy expensive for times like this. When some people aren’t even working you know they can’t afford that."

As worker shortages have been seen across the country following the pandemic, experts have cited costs of childcare as a factor in preventing parents from going back to work.

But another hurdle? Just finding the right place.

"It's an awareness piece," said Mike Taylor, CEO of the Henrico Education Foundation. "That's one of the challenges that some of the centers may face is folks may not know they're there."

For two years now, the Henrico Education Foundation has been working with partners in the community on an initiative to expand access to important childhood programs and eliminate financial barriers for parents.

"It's looking at eligibility with these students, finding centers that have availability and capacity, and placing those students in what's the best fit."

Taylor said for some students, the program may even cover the full cost of daycare.

Miss Ree said Amazing Grace Childcare had applied for the program and was hopeful it would bring in more students.

"We’re hoping it will open a pathway for us so we can stay open," she said.

Taylor said families of students who were interested in enrolling in the program or finding out what benefits they eligible for can visit their website.