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W.Va. child care advocates stress importance of funding

By Josephine E. Moore, The Register-Herald

OAK HILL, W.Va. — Fayette County mother Marissa Johnson said navigating West Virginia’s child care system is like being in an abusive relationship.

“You just keep hoping West Virginia is going to start to work for working families, and it’s probably not going to happen,” Johnson said Tuesday while speaking at a town hall in Oak Hill.

The town hall, A State Without Child Care, was organized by the West Virginia Association for Young Children’s Child Care Advocacy Work Group and MomsRising to push lawmakers into calling a special session to address funding for child care providers.

Members of the organizations are asking that the legislature consider permanently tying its child care subsidies to enrollment, not attendance, similar to the structure for public schools.

With state funding for enrollment base payments for child care subsidies set to run out Aug. 30, West Virginia Association for Young Children Executive Director Kristy Ritz said they need the state to allocate $23 million to maintain the program until the end of the fiscal year.

Without the funding, child care providers across the state say they’ll have to either raise their rates or close their doors.

Johnson, the mother of a 2-year-old son, Otto, said she and her partner are considering leaving West Virginia after learning that the child care facility their child attends in Oak Hill, A Place To Grow, may close due to a lack of state funding.

“If that happens, then for the immediate future, either myself or (my partner) Damian would have to decide, OK, who’s going to stop their career,” Johnson said.

While one of them staying home would solve their child care dilemma, Johnson said it would lead to another problem because, without their combined incomes, they’d no longer be able to afford their mortgage.

“So at that point, then you start to wonder, OK, well, then should we just leave West Virginia?” Johnson said. “Because it’s funny, I’m a big advocate for West Virginia … but it’s kind of like being in an abusive relationship.”

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