July 30, 2021

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‘I’m at a breaking point’: Va. working moms and parents struggle with child care and lack of paid family leave | Richmond Local News

Abbey Conley, 39, of Henrico County was concerned when her 3-year-old son Seth’s preschool closed at the start of the pandemic.

“I thought I’d take two weeks off and be back then,” Conley said. After moving to Richmond after jobs at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and the National Zoo in Washington, she found a job as a receptionist at a Henrico Veterinary Hospital. It was a step back from her previous jobs, but it was close to home and allowed her to pick up her son from preschool with ease.

That two week break from her job spanned two more and then indefinitely.

“When it became clear it wasn’t going to be two weeks, I was fired for childcare issues and had no teleworking options,” Conley said. “I’ve been home with my son since March 13th.”

About 90% of Virginia daycare centers and providers had reopened on April 2, according to Governor Ralph Northam’s office. Conley’s preschool reopened in the fall, but her son, who is nonverbal autistic, wasn’t invited back. She was able to enroll him in a Henrico preschool in November, but the program was virtual. She was looking for jobs but couldn’t find the right fit.

In addition to the difficulties of finding childcare, enrolling children can be enormously expensive. In Virginia, the average annual cost of having a child in daycare is more than $ 14,500, according to Child Care Aware of America. For older children aged 4 and under, the cost is around $ 11,500. That’s about as expensive as a year of study at a public university.