“The inability to manage childcare is the primary reason our economy is struggling.” This recent statement by Barry DuVal, president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, is a call to action. As communities struggle to get back to work and build back better, many working families with young children are still unable to find childcare and access needed supports due to COVID -19. Without an investment in a managed childcare system to support working families and children, our economy will continue to struggle.
The challenges families with young children face exist primarily because there is no organized infrastructure in place to help families access needed resources to get them back on track. Instead, they must navigate confusing networks that require an enormous amount of personal time away from their families.
To help with this challenge, Prince William County must create an Office of Childhood Education for children from birth to 5 years old -- much like what has existed in Fairfax County for years -- today. This much needed managed system will help working families with young children access resources and find safe, high-quality child are so they can return to work and bring back our economy.
The office would establish a designated governing agency in the county to build the infrastructure to manage the multi facets of childcare needs. It would serve as a single point of entry for access to services and resources and collaborate with stakeholders, including early childhood professionals, families, schools and community private-public partners.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Virginia Promise Partnership, recently wrote about the importance of early childhood to our future in “The Business Case for Strong Child Care.” They emphasized that the growing childcare crisis is not only impacting employees and businesses but also hurting children and their learning and development.
As research has shown, the early years -- birth to 5 years old -- are especially important to human development. Children who do not have consistent, sensitive and responsive caregiving in the early years of development will struggle to become productive and able citizens. This will have a negative impact on our community and future economy.
Without a strong educational and developmental foundation, children will not be prepared to learn in school, making it more difficult to succeed later in life. Studies have shown that high-quality childcare and early education programs help children develop both cognitive and learning skills that include attentiveness, determination and self-control, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. These skills and a strong education are significant to building an innovative and inventive future workforce that will build a strong economy.
The strength of the childcare system in the United States, Virginia and in Prince William County, directly impacts short and long-term success of our children, our current and future workforce, and the overall strength of our economic future.
As the nation and our local leaders considers legislation that will invest more dollars into early childhood education, greater focus must be put on how we will build a managed childcare system necessary to support working families and children. This is an investment that we must make now so we can all benefit from the return in the future.
Myra Sawyers, Ed.D., is a passionate practitioner, advocate, and leader in the field of early childhood education. She has spent most of her career working to advance the accessibility of quality child care experiences for all children and has been an educator for more than 25 years. She is also a Prince William County resident and parent and a strong advocate for children, families, education and the teaching profession. She can be reached at email@example.com.