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‘It’s really rough on the kids’: Childcare shortage continues to impact Southwest Virginia families

1/3 of the workforce was lost during the pandemic

Communities across the country are dealing with a shortage of childcare.

ROANOKE, Va. – Communities across the country are dealing with a shortage of childcare.

Imagine taking in a foster child with special needs and being told they have nowhere to go for care while you’re working. That’s what happened to Reagan White.

“I found out the hard way that there’s no place for these kids to go. It’s really rough on the kids and their families,” Roanoke Foster Parent Reagan White said.

White is one of the thousands of parents in our region struggling with a lack of affordable and accessible childcare.

“It is absolutely not fair that they’re not getting the kind of support they need and childcare so that they can get out of the house so that they can go to work, build a career so that the kids can get out of the house and build up social connections and experience other things in their community,” White said.

According to Cindy Lehnoff with the National Childcare Association, finding certified providers is hard because of staffing shortages. The industry lost a third of its workforce during the pandemic.

“People are trying to get back to work and come out of their homes we don’t have the staff to accept these children,” Cindy Lehnhoff with the National Child Care Association said.

Earlier this year Governor Ralph Northam announced Virginia is investing an additional $203.6 million in federal stimulus funds to help more families qualify for the state’s childcare subsidy program.

Here’s who is eligible for money through the program: Households with children five and younger and if your salary is up to 85% of the state median income.

This means your household combined must make less than about $68,000 annually.

“In most cases, it takes two salaries, but if you start getting to a point that it cost you more to go to work than to stay home that’s a choice that you’re going to you’re going to make,” Lehnhoff said. This week lawmakers on Capitol Hill are discussing President Biden’s Build Back Better Program.

The $1.75 trillion dollar spending plan would fund social programs and put money directly in parents’ pockets.

“We pass the Build Back Better Act, we cut childcare costs in half by assuring that no family is going to pay more than seven percent, we ensure that pre-k is provided for three- and four-year-olds,” Representative Pramila Jayapal said.

But here at home, Raegan White is not only spreading awareness about the issue, but she started a group for parents in situations like her own. Hoping she can help find care for one child at a time.

“The issue is, those providers don’t exist, they’re not here in Roanoke, there’s nowhere to take your kids so it’s not just a matter of affordability and more money, it’s also we need the structure we need we need the actual facilities and personnel that caregivers that are trained and trauma-informed care,” White said.

Below is a list of resources across our region if your family needs assistance with childcare or more information about programs:

Regional: TAP Head Start/Early Head start

The program works with United Way Roanoke Valley to help parents enroll their children in early childhood and educational care.

According to their website, their service area ranges from:

Half-day and full-day programs are offered in the following areas of southwest Virginia:

  • Alleghany County (Full-Day only)
  • Buena Vista City
  • Covington City (Full-Day only)
  • Lexington City (Full-Day only)
  • Roanoke County
  • Roanoke City
  • Rockbridge County
  • Salem City (Half-Day Only)
  • Botetourt County (Home Based only)
  • Craig County (Full-Day and Home Based only)

TAP’s website says the organization also works in Montgomery, Giles, and Pulaski counties for families interested in Early Head Start programs in the New River Valley.

To contact TAP, you can call at 540.767.6094 or email tapheadstart@tapintohope.org.

Lynchburg:

According to the City of Lynchburg’s website, The Child Care Program offers subsidies to provide low-income families with financial resources to find and afford quality childcare. There is also information to help parents learn more about childcare.

For more information about Child Care Services call (434) 455-5621.

Danville:

According to the city’s website, Danville Social Services provides services that promote employment and self-sufficiency for those who are income-eligible or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients.

Children under the age of 13 are eligible.


About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.