About Daycares in Virginia
There are about 3,100 child care centers and almost 4,000 licensed family child care homes (also called home daycares) that together, offer over 300,000 child care slots. The average annual tuition fee in Virginia for full-time infant care in a center is $10,028 and $7,696 for a 4 year old child. Average annual daycare cost for full-time infant care in a family child care home is $12,272 and $6,656 for a 4 year old child. These rates are comparable to an average annual tuition and fees for a public four-year college (in-state) $10,366. Northern Virginia has higher child care costs than the statewide average because of its proximity to Washington DC, which has the highest tuition rates in the nation with an average full time infant daycare cost of almost $22,000 in a child care center, and $15,000 in a home daycare.
Child care regulations in the state of Virginia are less stringent than in many other states. It is in fact considered one of the weaker States in terms of child care safety standards for a variety of reasons. For instance, daycare providers that care for up to five unrelated children, in addition to any number of their own children, are unregulated and are not inspected for safety or quality. The state also exempts child care centers and after-school programs operated by faith-based organizations, parks and recreation departments, public schools and private clubs. These programs are not required to follow as many regulations as the licensed providers.
Licensed child care providers (i.e. those that care for 6 or more children) are required to pass background checks, get training on health, safety, and child development. They also undergo regular unannounced inspections for safety and quality. For instance, all centers have licensing inspections twice a year as well as health, safety and fire inspections. However, background checks for licensed child care providers are completed without using fingerprints and do not require a check of the sex offender registry.
However, voluntary registration is available for child care providers that are not required to be licensed. These providers decide to voluntarily go through a process similar to that of licensed child care providers. For instance, all adult residents of the household undergo a criminal history background check, child abuse registry clearance and a tuberculosis screening at the time of their initial application and subsequent renewals. Assistants and/or substitutes complete a health and safety checklist assessing the home and personal qualifications. They undergo a home inspection to make sure basic child safeguards are adequate. Voluntary registration is not available in Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria because they have licensing requirements that go beyond State rules.
Northern Virginia has the tightest child care regulations in the state. Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington counties have imposed their own ordinances to regulate unlicensed providers. All three jurisdictions require a child care license, permit or registration that includes background checks, fire-safety inspections, CPR and First Aid training. For instance, a Fairfax County permit for home-based daycares allows a child care provider to care for up to five children at most other than their own. The permit is valid for one year and requires home health, safety and fire inspections for annual renewal. They must also pass Child Protective Services background check on residents in the home 14 years of age and older, and criminal background checks on all adults 18 years and older living in the home.