About 400,000 Virginia children spend their days in unregulated day-care settings. And that’s perfectly legal in this state, which ranks at the bottom of national child-care rankings for quality.
There are more than 1,000 child-care centers run by religious organizations, which are exempt from the state’s already flaccid licensing standards.
And each year, a handful of children in unregulated centers needlessly die, as Post writer Brigid Schulte explained in the Sunday paper.
So it was especially depressing to learn last week that one of Northern Virginia’s shining examples of employer-based child care is being shut down for financial reasons by one of the state’s wealthiest companies, Inova Health System.
The executives at Inova said it is costing them $1 million to run the three centers at Inova Fair Oaks, Inova Fairfax and Inova Mount Vernon hospitals. The day cares currently serve 180 families but have been used by thousands during the past 30 years.
I received plenty of comments from folks who applauded the shutdown of something they themselves didn’t use, calling it a perk.
That attitude scares me.
A perk is something like the posh offices for Inova executives in Falls Church known as “the Crystal Palace.” A perk is holding symposiums and meetings at the Ritz-Carlton, as Inova has. A perk is hiring Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Darrell Green to hang out with you and promote fitness at executive retreats, as Inova has. Or lavishly funding the Washington Mystics — co-sponsoring them with Dunkin’ Donuts — as part of an anti-obesity campaign, as Inova has. Or getting a bonus of least $670,000 on top of a $1.13 million base salary, as Inova CEO Knox Singleton has. (His total take-home in 2011, according to the nonprofit group’s public tax returns, was $3.4 million).
A child-care facility that charges market rates that allow workers with unconventional schedules to perform the demanding, round-the-clock tasks of caring for the region’s ill, injured or elderly while their children are nearby is not a perk. It is a human need to make this particular profession workable and to make the future taxpayers of our society healthy, happy and whole.
I got a flood of e-mails from nurses and other health-care workers who have used the child care, love it and are now having a tough time finding new care before the centers close in August. Because even if it wasn’t perfect — the facilities usually closed at 6:30 p.m., one hour before the standard nursing shift was over — it was close by and it enabled the workers who actually do hands-on patient care to keep working.
Parents who were looking forward to a meeting with executives this Tuesday were disappointed to hear that Inova decided to cancel it.