Photo Credit: Howard County Government

On May 3rd Howard County Executive Calvin Ball joined officials for the groundbreaking of the United Way Family Center in the Columbia Gateway district. The new center will support affordable childcare in the County with a focus on infant and toddler care for the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population. Photos of the event can be found here.

“The United Way Family Center will complement our existing Head Start program and fill the critical need for affordable, quality childcare for ALICE families by providing care for up to 76 infants and children,” said Ball. “The new center is a great asset to our community, reducing the cost of childcare for those in need and creating 29 new jobs as a result. Our investment in this Center is an investment not only in children and families but an investment in our community’s health and economic vitality.”

According to the most recent ALICE Report, 28% of Howard County households struggle to afford the basics in life, including housing, childcare, transportation, food, and healthcare—and 26% of these households are families with children. Howard County’s current Head Start program serves nearly 400 children in four early education centers for children ages 3-5 years old.

“The United Way Family Center in Columbia will be our third facility to provide affordable, accessible childcare and early childhood education for low-to-moderate income families,” said Franklyn Baker, United Way of Central Maryland CEO & President. “Based on the successful model of our centers in the Brooklyn and Poppleton neighborhoods of Baltimore, this site will break down barriers Howard County families face in getting quality childcare they can afford that’s close to where they live and work. One in three households in areas this Family Center will serve can’t make ends meet, and struggle to pay for just the basics, like food, housing, and healthcare. There’s no silver bullet that will eliminate childcare barriers. But by working united, together with local government, corporations, and other organizations, we can achieve great things and create lasting change to ensure the health and well-being of children, families, businesses, and the local economy in Howard County.”

While our county is known for having one of the highest median incomes in the nation, it also has one of the highest costs of living, making it a difficult place for low-to moderate-income families to afford childcare. On average, across all income levels, Howard County families spend about 20% of their income on childcare − double the national recommendation of 10%.

“It is exciting to see this project get underway,” said Jaqueline R. Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. “After years of working together to increase the availability of affordable, accessible, and quality childcare in the county, I am happy to see that we have been able to respond to the needs of our community with such an innovative and proven model. Today’s groundbreaking is a symbol of how our government, nonprofit partners, and business sector listen to our communities and work towards compassionate solutions that will benefit generations to come.”

The pandemic revealed the lack of childcare options as essential workers and many single parent households were required to make tough decisions regarding their jobs or the care of their children. Quality childcare became a primary concern even for families who didn’t previously have a need. Ball’s recent HoCo RISE Report highlighted the need to increase and improve the availability of affordable, quality childcare.

“One of the guiding principles at COPT is giving back and serving the communities where we work and live,” said Todd Hartman, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Office Properties Trust. “We are proud to grow our existing partnership with the United Way of Central Maryland and work hand in hand with Howard County leadership on such an important project. By the end of this year we will be opening a new and vital Family Center in Columbia, right around the corner from our headquarters. Childcare is a critical service to working parents, but it is also a very costly need. Working with the United Way and the Howard County government, we will make early childcare affordable and effective and the impact of this cannot be overstated.”

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Scott E

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