New 24-hour day care approved

Published 10:21 pm Monday, February 25, 2019

A 24-hour licensed day care facility is set to come to Suffolk following City Council approval last week.

Javoun Smallwood has proposed to bring a day care with an enrollment of up to 87 children with ages ranging from newborn to 12-year-olds. Smallwood said it would have a staff of about 16 people. City Council unanimously approved a conditional use permit for Smallwood to operate the facility at its Feb. 20 meeting.

Though the day care will eventually be open 24 hours per day, Smallwood said he initially plans to operate the facility at 400 Finney Ave. from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Smallwood noted in his application that the building was once a homeless shelter and later an office for ForKids before he bought the building in 2018.

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“We believe that a 24-hour facility would be something that is needed in the city,” Smallwood said during a public hearing. “We have a number of employers such as Planters, QVC, Lipton Tea, Target and other employers that actually operate 24 hours a day, and so, we’d like to be able to provide child care services for those people that work there, and for people in general.”

The day care would have a 2,700-square foot fenced-in outdoor play area that would be in use from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily, for a maximum of 36 children at any one time.

Lisa Ellsworth, who works for ForKids, spoke in favor of the project during a public hearing and noted the difficulty of those using the organization’s services in finding child care.

“Our families typically work entry-level jobs, and they work overnights, they work late into the evenings, they work early morning opening shifts where they have to be at work at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Ellsworth said. “So any daycare provider in the area is usually very full. There’s a lengthy waiting list to get in for infants.”

Councilman Roger Fawcett said he had concerns about a 24-hour operation and asked about what provisions other than staff they would have for children there.

“I applaud you for the daycare,” Fawcett said. “Daycare is really well needed in our city. There’s no question about it. It’s a little unusual to see a 24-hour one pop up.”

Smallwood said they would have sleeping facilities, follow state mandates for children-staff ratios, provide food for children and have security.

The Virginia Department of Social Services would have oversight of the facility and would license it. VDSS lists 28 licensed daycare providers in Suffolk, none of which operate 24 hours per day or on weekends. Unique Little Hands Child Development Center on Godwin Boulevard, however, does operate with extended weekday evening and Saturday hours. It opened in November 2015.

There are another eight licensed family daycares in Suffolk, according to VDSS, and though none operate 24 hours, some offer extended weekday hours.

Nine family providers who have registered with the state, but are unlicensed, operate in Suffolk and offer a mixture of weekday, extended hour and weekend care.