New report says Alexandria needs more childcare in the West End and Arlandria

A mother and child at a food distribution outside Casa Chirilagua in Arlandria on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Casa Chirilagua is one of the recipients of the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

A new generation of first-generation Americans is being born primarily in Arlandria and the West End, but a new report said Alexandria doesn’t have the childcare facilities in those neighborhoods to support the children and new parents.

The new Community Needs Assessment, prepared by the Economic Opportunity Commission (EOC) and the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), examined issues of housing, employment, and more around Alexandria.  Part of the Assessment examined the accessibility of childcare around the city.

The assessment said the number of children receiving childcare assistance increased by 40% — from 274 to 683 — from 2021 to 2023, presumably as parents who had been working from home started going back into offices. But it also noted that those childcare centers are not evenly distributed, with Arlandria and the West End having extremely limited facilities while more affluent neighborhoods have excess capacity.

“The areas with the greatest racial diversity and with the highest percentage of children born to foreign-born parents are in Arlandria and the West End of Alexandria,” the assessment said. “These two areas have limited childcare capacity relative to the total number of children.”

The assessment also found that the cost of infant care has risen by $60-120 per child in recent years, with infant child care costs starting at $2,444 per month in Alexandria in 2023.

The report said there’s a particular need for childcare centers with staff who speak Amharic and/or Spanish.

The report noted that:

  • The West End and Arlandria have the highest percentage of single parent households.
  • The West End has the highest number of households with children under 5 at or near poverty.
  • The number of children in poverty has declined in the US and the Commonwealth of VA, but in Alexandria it
    has increased.
  • The rate of poverty of Latino children under 6 in Alexandria is greater than the Virginia and national rates.
  • The percent of women who have given birth in or near poverty is higher in the West End.
  • Arlandria and the West End have the highest percentage of children without working parents.
  • Alexandria has a high single mother birth rate for the non-white population.

The assessment also examined potential solutions which, in pretty standard fashion for Alexandria, started with a recommendation to commission a study. It also recommended changes to the childcare subsidy program, which loosened eligibility during Covid, be made permanent.

The assessment said the city could also do more fund initiatives focused on workforce support and mental health.

“For example, a current Notice of Public Rule Making (NPRM) proposes new and enhanced changes to the Head Start Program Performance Standards in three main areas: workforce supports, mental health, and other quality improvements,” the assessment said. “There are 67 new requirements and over 60 updates to select Head Start standards, all of which are unfunded. While some of these requirements have a long time horizon for full implementation, the impact of this from an implementation cost perspective is considerable.”

Other solutions proposed include:

  • Advocate for City-led investments and partnerships.
  • Promote awareness of early intervention and publicly funded childcare options.
  • Improve compensation for early childhood professionals.
  • Stabilize the childcare sector by encouraging the use of grants and contracts to build a pipeline from middle school to profession in early childhood.
  • Maximize participation in state-funded Virginia Preschool Initiatives Programs.