Randy Yohe Published

Experts: W.Va. Child Care System Needs More Public/Private Partnerships

New study shows child care centers don't necessarily hire the most qualified teachers.

West Virginia Child Care providers hope a high-profile partnership convinces more in-state businesses to help subsidize a struggling system.

Directors with the state Bureau for Family Assistance say they help provide child care for nearly 17,000 children a month. About two thirds of the children subsidized by the state child care system are six years old or younger.

During legislative interim meetings, Child Care Program Manager Deidre Craythorne told members of the Joint Committee on Health about 1,300 child care facilities statewide, including homes, established day and evening care centers, and head start centers, are not enough.

She said the Bureau for Family Assistance budget runs at about $60 Million a year. The bureau will lose more than $340 million in combined federal COVID-19 relief funding by fall of 2023. That money has been used to recruit and retain employees, maintain facilities and subsidize client families.

Craythorne said it’s often a challenge for child care centers to remain viable – with enough steady clients to get the bills paid, staff retained and fulfill commitmments of services offered. She hopes more businesses will aspire to the public/private partnership child care model now being forged between the state and steel producing giant Nucor.

“That will help expand things,” Craythorne said. “If we can get more businesses in West Virginia to really understand and appreciate the impact the lack of child care has on their workforce.”

Craythorne had no answer when asked why only about a quarter of potentially eligible West Virginia families take advantage of child care subsidies. About a third of families in the system are at or below the poverty level.