United Way of Southwest Virginia unveils new child care tracker

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 2:08 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The United Way of Southwest Virginia has developed an online tool to help families find licensed child care providers.

According to CEO and President Travis Staton, access to quality child care in the region remains a challenge. The gap between need and availability is among the largest in the state. Staton said the Commonwealth’s average gap is around 12 percent, while southwest Virginia’s gap sits at around 30 percent.

“When you think about that 30 percent, that’s almost 7,000 children throughout southwest Virginia that don’t have access to quality childcare,” Staton said.

This, he said, affects not just families individually but communities as a whole.

“If there’s not quality early childhood care and education providers available, people can’t retain a job, they can’t go to work, they can’t re-enter the workforce,” he explained. “Especially those individuals with families with young children.”

Plus, Staton said when children are exposed to early childhood care and education, they have better educational outcomes than children who did not get early childhood support.

Despite the fact that child care options are still lacking, Staton said the United Way wanted to help families find availability in their communities.

“When parents were looking for childcare, they Googled childcare, they - looking back in the days - they looked in a phone book,” Staton said. “And it was all over the place where the information is on who provides early childhood education, what their business location is, what their fees are, what their hours of service, and it’s really hard for parents to find childcare.”

The Birth to 5 Hub is an online portal where families can search for child care based on their location, transportation options and they age of their children. So far the hub has 183 licensed providers in the system.

“So if you’re a parent, looking for care, and services for young children, you can go to this site and see what’s available in your neighborhood, in your community, from the public sector all the way to the private sector, and see those services those hours,” he said.

Staton said they will keep working on the hub to make sure all of its information is up to date and relevant. They will continue to add providers to the system as well.

“If you have a need or ideas or you know, a provider that’s not on there, encourage them to sign up, we’ll help them get signed up on there.”