43 Child Deaths in 10 Years is Unacceptable

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By: J. Glenn Hopkins, President/CEO

According to an unprecedented investigative report published in two installments this week by The Washington Post, 43 children have died over the past decade in unlicensed child care centers in Virginia. This is tragic and should be unacceptable to anyone who cares about children.

The District of Columbia and Maryland regulate their child care industry but, with the exception of the City of Alexandria, and Arlington and Fairfax counties which independently regulate child care inside their borders, Virginia has largely left in-home and small child care providers to operate as they choose.  Legislators in Richmond are loath to impose regulatory burdens on businesses -- although they have placed regulations on nail salons, pet shops, and food carts.       

During difficult economic times, it is entirely reasonable that financially struggling parents should seek out affordable child care options.  Unregulated child care can cost a fraction of that charged by licensed providers.  After all, unregulated providers do not have to purchase child appropriate toys, cabinet safety locks, electric socket covers, food, or insurance.  They don't have to attend training workshops to learn about CPR or important child health issues like SUID.  In fact, these unregulated child care providers don't even have to conduct criminal background checks on their workers or pay them minimum wage.

Unregulated child care also offers a way for many families to supplement their income.  By taking care of the neighbor's children, families can earn $75 a week or more for each child; the more children, the more duckets in the bucket.  Thousands of un- and under-employed individuals in Virginia have converted their livingrooms, basements, kitchens, and closets into child care spaces as part of a booming and shadowy industry in Virginia.
Hopkins House is a highly regulated child care center, and nationally accredited.  Our centers are routinely and closely monitored by a gauntlet of federal, state and local government agencies. This is good news for the 314 children enrolled in our three preschool academies but does nothing for the estimated 200,000 children left every day in unregulated, unsafe, and sometimes dangerous child care settings in the Commonwealth.  It is time for our state legislators to fix this serious and growing problem.  The Commonwealth's youngest, most innocent and vulnerable citizens deserve better. If we can regulate hair salons, pet shops, and food carts, certainly we can regulate child care.  


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