MANY working mothers in Virginia can’t afford to work.

According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center that was cited recently in The Free Lance–Star, the cost of child care has grown 37 percent to 39 percent in the past decade, while women’s wages have grown just 5 percent.

Add to this the fact that women are paid 81 cents to every dollar earned by men and the problem with paying for day care is obvious. It becomes more critical when you consider that 61.3 percent of all mothers in Virginia are either primary or co-breadwinners.

To make matters even worse, child care in Virginia is expensive relative to the national average. In Virginia, the average annual cost for center-based care for infants is $13,728. The national average is $10,759.

For 4-year-olds, the state average is $10,608, while the national average is $8,678.

Home-based child care is usually cheaper, but according to Carol Clark, executive director of Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area, the number of home-based providers in the Fredericksburg area is shrinking due to HOA and licensing requirements.

Advocates urge federal policymakers to increase support to various funding streams and make tax credits more accessible for child care.

Virginia offers some child care assistance to eligible families, but only 5.1 percent of eligible children receive such assistance. In the Fredericksburg region, as elsewhere, there’s a waiting list.

The General Assembly has made some efforts to deal with this problem. However, a Senate bill that would look at developing a statewide unified public–private system for early childhood care and education was left in the Appropriations Committee by the House of Delegates.

Providing adequate and affordable care for children of working mothers is not going to be an easy fix. Child-care workers need to earn a living wage, too. Women trying to earn enough money to feed, house and clothe their children while ensuring that they are cared for when mom is at work should be able to afford to work. Child-care centers should be safe and dependable.

Add all of those up, and the only solution is more money, either federal, state, local, or all three.

Working mothers need to be able to bring home enough money to take care of themselves and their children. Whether it comes from tax credits, block grants or other sources, this should be a top priority.

Making a mother choose between looking after her children and earning the money needed for her family’s welfare is not acceptable.

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