Public outcry in Arlington over a budget proposal to close the county's Office of Child Care Licensing paid off. County Board Chairman Walter Tejada began a Tuesday night budget session with an announcement that the county will preserve the office and continue its inspections of child care centers and day care homes and its training programs for providers.
While the state of Virginia has rules that govern day care centers and home day cares, Arlington provides oversight for its own, more stringent set of standards that require lower staff to student ratios and higher levels of training and education for providers. It also regulates small day care homes that are free from state scrutiny.
The three-person staff provides oversight to centers and homes caring for 5,200 children.
"Arlington has, for more than 40 years, provided an extra layer of inspection and training for providers," said Chairman Tejada. "And the Board is committed to continuing both of these elements."
Later in the meeting when the time came to discuss the county manager's proposal to close the office to save about $250,000, Tejada simply said, "Let's skip this."
The plan to eliminate the child care licensing office set off a community furor. A petition dedicated to saving the office gathered more than 1,000 signatures in just 10 days.
Sandra Redmore, who directs the Clarendon Child Care Center, launched the petition drive and spoke at a hearing.
"Our youngest citizens don't have a voice and we need to stand up and protect them," said Redmore. "Their care and keeping them safe in the early years is really non-negotiable. It has to be a priority."
Follow Julie Carey on Twitter at @JulieCareyNBC