Childcare town hall event to be held in South Charleston

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A town hall will be held Wednesday night in South Charleston to discuss the state of childcare and how it effects communities in West Virginia.

The event will be hosted by a local childcare facility, Kanawha Valley Enrichment Center, at the Labelle Theatre. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the event beginning at 6 p.m.

KVEC Director Shellie Terry said they’ll be discussing COVID-related changes to reimbursement rates, access to affordable childcare, staffing challenges and more.

Terry said the state has extended the reimbursement rates for childcare facilities in West Virginia through Sept. 2024, but that more needs to be done to address the problem.

“That’s putting a Band-Aid on the situation. It’s not a permanent fix,” Terry said.

Currently, childcare facilities only get reimbursed off of enrollment, not attendance.

“If we have a child that maybe comes 10 days out of the month, we don’t get a full reimbursement and we can’t staff properly just based off those 10 days,” Terry said.

Terry said they have a request to state lawmakers who have been invited to attend Wednesday’s town hall.

“What we’re asking for the lawmakers to change is us getting funded based off of enrollment,” she said.

Making that change will help stabilize West Virginia’s childcare system as a whole, Terry said. With increased job creation in the state, more parents are working, meaning more childcare services are needed.

“If we don’t have childcare centers to provide quality care for these children so the parents can go to work, they can’t work and that hurts our state,” Terry said.

The town hall is inspired by a National Day of Action, “A Day Without Child Care Town Halls.” There have been several town halls held across the state so far in the last month in Wheeling, Oak Hill, Harpers Ferry, Weirton, Bridgeport and Lewisburg.

West Virginia ranks 50th in the nation for childcare accessibility, according to Child Care Aware of America and TEAM For West Virginia Children.

“In a state with one of- if not the- lowest workforce participation rates, childcare is absolutely an economic justice issue,” community organizer Amy Jo Hutchison, representing MomsRising and the leader of the grassroots movement Rattle the Windows, said in a news release.

Hutchinson continued to state, “Without access to affordable and quality childcare, families cannot work. People and businesses won’t move into a state that does not have even the beginnings of a care infrastructure, and child care is an integral part of that.”

The West Virginia Association for Young Children is also apart of the effort. A list of dates and locations can be found on their website and Facebook page.