Alexandria, VA – On July 1, 2021, Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan saw her bill supporting the childcare workforce enacted into law.
The Child Care Stabilization and Quality Care bill is paramount in combatting the effects of the pandemic on all facets of the childcare sector, from parent to child to teacher to school. It emphasizes the importance of and increases support for high-quality education, especially for early childhood.
As a woman, a mother, and a person of color, Senator McClellan wrote this bill and pushed it forward, having experienced herself the effects of the pandemic on the childcare industry.
“My mother was a childcare provider over 50 years ago. I had early childhood education, and I have seen its impact firsthand with my children as well,” says Senator McClellan. “For ten years, I have had my children at childcare development centers. Over that time, I have talked to teachers and seen firsthand how difficult it is to meet the needs of the community.”
The law addresses the needs of our community in three ways. It (1) Addresses staffing shortages by allowing portable background checks. The background checks remain with and follow the employee rather than stay with the employer.
(2) Adjusts subsidies so they are based on student enrollment rather than student attendance.
(3) Implements a pilot program collecting data and statistics to ensure proper funding for quality childcare resources.
“Before Covid, there was already a crisis of access to affordable childcare. This is going to stabilize it and restructure it going forward,” says the senator.
This law works across the childcare sector, providing support to any provider that needs stabilization, whether home-based, school-based, or private. It also works across the political sector, with both Republican and Democratic representatives highlighting childcare reform on their platforms.
Glenn Hopkins, president and CEO of Hopkins House, a nonprofit childcare center in Alexandria, watched with excitement as Senator McClellan turned this bill into law. Hopkins says, “When I first heard of this bill, and that Jennifer McClellan was the one who wrote it, I had no reservations. My first reaction was, ‘Finally! Someone gets it.’ She truly got it, and that can only come from a mother.”
The senator spent the last few years meeting with childcare professionals across Virginia, in person and through virtual town halls. Hopkins House was one of them.
Watching Senator McClellan’s involvement within her community spurred other childcare professionals to speak to their community leaders, as well. Hopkins explains, “We were active behind the scenes. We reached out to our folks [in the Democratic caucus] to get their support [for this bill].”
The childcare bill became law as of July 1, ensuring greater mobility for employees in the childcare workforce, higher quality education for students, and more insight into the data on childcare resources.
Achievement gaps are diverse. For working moms especially, just trying to find infant care is hard enough, let alone high-quality early childhood education. The new law is structured to provide concrete data revealing these gaps and identify resources to increase the quality of education to close the gaps.
“This is a good first step,” says Senator McClellan. “But we want a universal childcare model.” This law will serve as an example to other state governments and hopefully the federal government to further support our nation’s children and the people who care for them.