House Leaders Seek Improved Day Care

Posted March 12, 2007 at 6:32pm

House Democratic leaders have given newly installed Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard the green light to immediately begin taking steps to improve and possibly expand the House Child Care Center, an initiative Beard said was one of his top priorities when he took the job earlier this year.

Noting the “significant waiting list” to place children, especially those under 4 years old, at the center, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) directed Beard to develop recommendations for eliminating the backlog and to come up with new ideas “to ensure we provide the best possible day care service to our employees within reasonable budgetary parameters.”

The House Child Care Center, located in the Ford House Office Building, is currently operating at a 96 percent capacity, according to Beard, but when it comes to openings for children under 4 years old, about 80 families currently are on a waiting list.

“The Center’s inability to provide service to our employees with young children causes preventable anxiety to many families and undermines our ability to attract and retain a first-class workforce,” Pelosi and Hoyer’s letter states.

On Monday, Beard called the letter “an exciting directive” from the leadership.

“We’ve got 78 families on the waiting list and they have to do something for their children,” he said. “We ought to make every effort to figure out how to address their needs. It may be that we need to build another facility or we may need to look at alternative day care providers in our area. … I want to look at all the alternatives.”

Beard said he would have to wait until his office reviews all the options available before determining if new measures could bring down the cost of enrolling a child in the center. The center’s monthly tuition rates range from a high of $1,020 per month for infants to a low of $690 per month for pre-kindergarten.

Hoyer and Pelosi also used the letter to applaud Beard for asking the House superintendent to conduct testing in the day care center for radon gas, lead, asbestos and other harmful substances following news reports that the Library of Congress Child Care Center was found to have high levels of radon.

Although the House facility had been tested in the past, Beard said he asked for immediate retesting last week because “I just wanted to make sure it was a safe environment and by every indication it is.”

Pelosi and Hoyer’s letter stated that “there is nothing more vital than the quality of care our children receive during their developing years and it is critical that the House Child Care Center be held to the highest possible health standards.”