CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new survey shows most young children in West Virginia who receive child care don’t get it from licensed child care centers.
“The vast majority of our children are in the care of some person that we don’t know anything about,” said Margie Hale, executive director of Kids Count, which released its 2013 data book Wednesday.
Hale said most of those children under 6 are probably watched by a relative or a neighbor but there’s no guarantee that are getting quality care.
“These are all unlicensed, unmonitored situations. We don’t know what they are,” Hale said.
The data book shows 33,000 kids are in unlicensed child care, 30,000 other children in minimum quality child care, 2,000 in higher quality and 1,600 children in the highest quality child care programs.
Hale said the state needs to increase its investment in early childhood education. She cites a 2005 Marshall University study that shows each dollar spent on those programs in the Mountain State will result in a $5.21 return to the state.
“These children will get jobs, delay marriage and stay out of jail,” she said. “All the things that happen to kids who don’t have good early experiences.”
Hale said investing in the state’s youngest children will have a dramatically higher return than any other age.
“It’s the best economic development project the state could take,” Hale said.
West Virginia now requires K-4 education programs and Hale said there’s a push for K-3 programs statewide. She said the state also needs to provide in-home programs for kids from birth to 3.
“Those are the programs we’re not investing in,” she said.
The 2013 Kids Count Data Book lists three public investments that will bring high returns:
1. Support parents, for instance through programs that coach those who want help, so they can successfully care for their children.
2. Increase access to high-quality programs for young children, particularly those from low-income families.
3. Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems that address all aspects of early child development.
Kids Count said Monongalia County has the best overall child well-being and McDowell County has the worst.