The Arlington County Board, concerned about the growing need for quality child care in Arlington, has appointed a committee to advise the board on ways to make more child care programs available.
Board member Ellen Bozman, who proposed the idea for an advisory committee, said an adequate and affordable county child care system is "of paramount concern to the whole community."
"It's an issue that cuts across all other lines in the county," Bozman said. "It's of concern to parents, grandparents and all adults who are thinking of having a family."
The nine-member citizen committee, which will serve as a sounding board for Arlington parents and employes, has been charged with finding out what county residents and workers need, what kind of programs they want, how to develop possible work-site day care programs and how to improve information and referral services already available in Arlington.
The board appointed Jeanne Comeau, a former teacher, as chairwoman of the advisory committee. Currently Comeau heads the U.S. Army Materiel Command's Child Development Services Program, overseeing child care needs for more than 112,000 children of Army families around the world.
In Arlington, more programs are needed for children too young for school, particularly infants, Bozman said. All 19 of Arlington's elementary schools have programs available for kindergarteners through sixth graders before and after school.
Bozman said that not only are more Arlington women with children working these days, but they are returning to work sooner after having children.
According to statistics gathered by the county's administrative staff, the number of workers in Arlington has grown from 136,000 in 1976 to more than 150,000 this year. Additionally, U.S. Census figures show that whereas 38 percent of Arlington women with children under 6 years old were working in 1970, that figure grew to 57 percent by 1980.
Although there are about 25 licensed, full-day child care centers in Arlington, only two of them provide care for infants -- children under the age of two, according to county officials. Both facilities have long waiting lists.
Not only is infant care scarce, it's expensive. Arlington's county code dictates that no more than three infants may be cared for by a single supervisor.
At the Clarendon facility, it costs $380 a month to leave a child under 2 at the center, which operates weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At the other center that provides infant care, the Children's Way School in South Arlington, hours are slightly longer and rates are slightly higher: the facility operates weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the cost for infant care is $400 per month.
Arlington Hospital is the only county employer that currently offers an on-site child care center to its employes, according to Bozman.
Susan Simms, vice president for the nursing division there, said the hospital has had a program for children of employes since 1982. The program provides care for 32 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 2 years. Employes pay about $15 a day for child care.
Simms also said more and more women are returning to work sooner after having children (some after five weeks) and she believes the program is a critical one for the hospital. The program's operating budget for the current year is about $85,000, she said, about 20 percent of which is subsidized by the hospital.
In addition to the creation of the child care advisory committee, the county is involved in several other efforts to expand child care options in Arlington.
In July, the county sent a survey to 53 private and federal agencies in Arlington with 100 employes or more asking what child care benefits the agencies offered and what benefits they were considering offering in the future. Twenty-two agencies responded.
The survey showed alternative work hours, such as "flexitime," was the most frequently offered benefit. More agencies are considering offering an in-house information and referral service on child care options than any other future benefit.
Meanwhile, a dependent care committee made up of county employes is working on a plan to set up a child care center for county and business employes within walking distance of the Arlington Courthouse. Jane Eboch said it will propose the idea to the County Board this year.