Creating a Pathway to Quality Child Care

Parents across the Commonwealth, and the country, are finding it increasingly difficult to secure suitable child care. Armed with a $100,000 Virginia Statewide Business District Resurgence Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Inner Peace Coalition, Inc. (IPC) has been working tirelessly to alleviate this issue in Virginia’s Historic Triangle. With support from key partners, they have successfully broken down many of the barriers and created a pathway for new child care providers.

IPC is a nonprofit organization in James City County that works to enhance the lives of its diverse community members, including those underserved. They do so by providing tangible resources such as workforce development, business and financial education and housing support.

“We believe that small businesses are the pulse of the community. Therefore, the preservation, growth and retention of our small businesses is essential to accomplishing our mission.”

– Ti’Juana Gholson, Director, Inner Peace Coalition, Inc.

Well known in the community as being a connector, IPC was approached by James City County’s Department of Social Services (DSS). They were having a hard time securing subsidy child care providers in the area and hoped IPC could help. IPC hosted an informational webinar for local and state DSS representatives to discuss the crisis with IPC’s large network of local community members, entrepreneurs and partners. It was quickly learned that the licensing process was prohibiting potential new child care providers from opening businesses, and they began looking for ways to break down the barriers.

IPC had the resources to provide generalized business support, but they needed a partner that could provide industry specific support. They turned to Child Care Aware of Virginia (CCAoVA), a statewide organization that delivers services to families, child care professionals and communities to increase the accessibility, availability and quality of child care. Julie Greene, Eastern Regional Manager of CCAoVA, was able to provide the child care industry specific education needed to secure licensing. Additionally, Hampton University’s Virginia Workforce Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (VWIEC) stepped up as a partner. With a mission to expand the capability and capacity of Virginia’s current and aspiring entrepreneurs, specifically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, VWIEC offered additional support to further break down barriers for these new child care providers—including providing funding for licenses and needed supplies.

There was a strong focus on quality over quantity, which enabled IPC and their partners to provide one-on-one coaching and mentoring throughout the process. To date, ten participants completed the required licensing training with CCAoVA. Two providers have opened new facilities in the Hampton Roads area providing child care to approximately 35 children, and two more facilities are set to open shortly.

LaKia Ruttley was one of the participants to successfully complete the program. Thanks to the one-on-one guidance she received, she is now a licensed at-home subsidy child care provider. Ruttley was forced to quit her job during the COVID-19 pandemic because she wasn’t able to secure child care. Now, not only is she a self-employed, small business owner, but she is also able to employ her 18-year-old daughter.

“Between Ms. Gholson and Ms. Greene the path was paved. Once I expressed an interest in opening my own child care facility, they provided all the technical assistance, guidance and encouragement I needed to complete the licensing process and open a successful business.” – LaKia Ruttley, Owner, Small Hands, Large Hearts LLC

The program has captured the attention of 3e Restoration, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that works to systematically change the cycle of poverty and homelessness. 3e Restoration’s founder, Pastor Fred Liggin approached IPC with an opportunity. Williamsburg Christian Church, where he serves as lead pastor, has unused space that they would like to donate to the cause. IPC and their partners are now exploring the idea of opening a child care incubation center in the available space. Gholson is hopeful that the center will provide a solid pathway for future providers and help alleviate a dire need in the community.

Small Hands, Large Hearts LLC celebrates their grand opening as a new child care provider. Representatives from YJCW NAACP, Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce, James City County EDA, and York County EDA present owner, LaKia Ruttley with her ribbon cutting certificate.
Photo Credit: Ti’Juana Gholson