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.

(Read 2013 Data Book info here)

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.


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  • Michelle

    Every time I hear the comments from Margie Hale I get very angry. I also hear 'money from licensing fees', 'endorsing big state government overreach' and 'throwing more money at failed programs'. Who does she think she is? My grandson will be home-schooled for many reasons - her mindset being one of them!!

  • NCWV

    Everybody complains that public education is failing our kids. Can somebody explain then, why, oh why, would we want MORE of it and force kids into it even earlier?

  • Observer

    The lack of self awareness of this person is so comical that this article could fit in on the Onion.

    I consider myself a relatively moderate person, and I believe in the need and benefits of certain well-targeted early childhood programs, but this worldview on display is downright creepy.

    Newsflash: the State's standing with respect to children is inferior, not superior, to those of parents and parents' authorized agents, absent abuse.

    I spy with my little eye....someone with a Napoleon complex.

  • Barry Bledsoe

    "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." Really? So what? Why is it your business to know anything about the grandparents, aunts etc. that parents have watching their kids while they work? Where parents put their kids is THEIR business, not yours!

    • Erica

      I am a stay at home mom BECAUSE I want to know everything about who is influencing and educating my young child. It's not easy, but I refuse to let big government do my job.

    • ViennaGuy

      Well stated, Barry!

    • RogerD

      Because "we" are from the government and we know what's best for you. That's why!

      I found the investment argument rather comical too. The study that said for every dollar there will be a $5.21 return to the state because these children will get jobs. Really? In West Virginia?