Mayor Bowser promotes initiatives to address DC child care shortage
WASHINGTON (ABC7) —
Any new parents in D.C. know the District has a child care shortage. A recent report by the advocacy group DC Appleseed found only about 7,600 slots for the 22,000 children in the District under age three.
On Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser touted new efforts to help child care providers open or expand facilities before leading story time at the newly opened Curious Explorers Child Development Center in NW Washington.
She unveiled plans for an upcoming free legal clinic to assist child care providers grow their businesses in a partnership with the DC Bar Pro Bono Center. It will happen Saturday, June 3 at Eastern High School, featuring “speakers, activities and other resources.”
Curious Explorers owner Isatou Jabamg Bah said she had several moments of frustration and self-doubt while working to turn a long vacant and boarded-up building on Georgia Avenue NW into the daycare center she’s operating today.
“It's difficult,” she said. “Yes, you have to be strong to go meet those people who are responsible for the paperwork. And you fight with them and that's what I did. DCRA, all of them, at the end, they know me. We've become friends.”
With so much demand for slots across the District, openings quickly fill up. Curious Explorers opened in February. And while it is still enrolling toddlers in the program, there is already a waitlist for infants.
Genevieve Maricle has been struggling to find a good program for her 16-month-old son Isaac.
“We got on some wait lists and we're still trying to navigate it six months later,” Maricle said.
With a goal of creating 1,300 new slots for children like Isaac, Mayor Bowser's fiscal year 2018 budget plan includes more than $15 million for grants to help providers with the cost of new facilities and worker certification. In the past few weeks, the Bowser administration has also promoted the mayor’s Thrive By Five DC initiative - connecting DC families with health and early education resources.
“We're also looking for more government sites that we can build out and make the cost of space less expensive which can help the bottom line for the provider and the family,” Bowser said.
At-Large Council member Robert White called Bowser's proposed $15 million investment "a good start."
He is currently crafting his own comprehensive legislation to address the District’s child care shortage. He said he plans to introduce the bill in the next month.
He said he’s looking at assisting parents with the costs of child care and - like affordable housing - incentivizing developers to create space for daycare programs in new buildings.
“If we are really going to keep parents in the District, if we're going to address the achievement gaps we see in our schools, we have to start by making very large investments in early childhood development,” he said.