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Lessons Learned from FIPSE Projects II - September 1993

Northern Virginia Community College

Childcare Certification for Teen Single Mothers


The nation is witnessing dramatic increases in early maternity. The city of Alexandria has the third highest incidence of teen pregnancy in Virginia. Northern Virginia Community College, the Alexandria Public Schools and the Alexandria community joined together in a program to provide college certificates to young single mothers, hoping to break the cycle of poverty through education and employable skills. The project's goal was to enable these mothers to join the pool of qualified childcare professionals in the region through a program of study in child development.

Innovative Features

While the early maternity population is large, few postsecondary programs target this group, despite city and college support services. In this project Pell Grants were the major source of tuition funding, and the city granted transportation, housing, day care and food subsidy assistance. Students selected for the program were 17 years or older, high school graduates with only one child and free of any drug dependency or criminal record. By qualifying these young mothers as childcare professionals, project staff hoped that their economic self-sufficiency and child care needs would be resolved simultaneously at the work place.

Additional community organizations joined in support of the program:

  • Alexandria's Mayor, City Manager, and the Director of Social Services joined College, community, and public school administrators served on the program's advisory committee;

  • Arlington County provided tuition funding;

  • the Winkler Foundation funded an apartment unit, furnished by community contributions, for several participants;

  • Perpetual Bank opened savings accounts for each student, and assisted them in budget management;

  • local physicians provided hygiene and free medical treatment;

  • Alexandria Public Schools guaranteed employment to all students completing the certificate program as instructional aides;

  • 15 of the 23 Virginia community colleges, several community colleges from Maryland and Pennsylvania, and 10 four-year colleges supported the program's dissemination conference; and,

  • program staff noted an increase in college enrollment by parents, relatives, and siblings of participating students.


Over the three-year period, 138 potential participants were interviewed. Of the 55 that enrolled in the program, 40 are now employed and meet the Virginia certification standard to work full time as instructional aides in childcare settings. The remaining 15 are currently enrolled at the College in the Associate Degree Program. Significantly, students who remained in the program had no second pregnancies, and none went on public assistance, other than Section Eight Housing. The program is now attracting the sisters of the successful participants.

Unanticipated Problems

Student retention was the overriding problem faced by the program. Even with comprehensive academic and social services, personal, health, and financial difficulties caused a few students to drop out when the program first started. Second pregnancies were not an obstacle, however, nor were academic inadequacies.

These impoverished young mothers needed to earn money in the time they were devoting to schoolwork, and they did not see how they would earn enough income working as childcare professionals. Thus, project staff found it necessary to broaden academic choices and transfer options for the students. Nevertheless, education alone could not overcome the numerous problems faced by these single parents.

Project Continuation

The program remains a cooperative venture between the College, the city, the school system and the Alexandria community. The College continues funding faculty and staff salaries associated with the project. When the FIPSE grant ended, the city of Alexandria continued support of the staff through January 1991. The City Council supported a plan to fund non-teaching personnel for the 1991-1992 academic year. Arlington County continues to pay tuition for participants, while the city provides free daycare for their children.

The partnership agreement between the College, the city, the school system, and the community was the essential ingredient for the program's success. It became increasingly clear that the students faced multiple life problems that required multiple social services beyond those the College could provide.


The project received statewide attention, as did the project director herself. The project had television coverage nationally (CBS's "Forty-Eight Hours"); on public television (WETA); on Washington, D.C. television ("Capitol Edition"); and on local public television in Virginia. For her innovative work the project director won the Washingtonian of the Year Award, the Urban League Award, the Boy's Club Award, the Hopkins House Award, was described in Jet Magazine, and featured on the front cover of Old Dominion Magazine.

Available Information

Northern Virginia Community College will make available copies of the final report and project handouts. The project director had volunteered to visit campuses and speak about the program.

Requests should be addressed to:

Eula M. Miller
Education Program Head
Northern Virginia Community College
Alexandria, VA

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Last Modified: 02/22/2006