Report: Half a million Washington kids don’t have access to child care

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Washington State Department of Commerce
Washington State Department of Commerce

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A report from the Child Care Collaborative Task Force shows that more than 500,000 children in Washington do not have access to child care, and one-in-five parents have turned down jobs or promotions over child care concerns.

The Collaborative Task Force is a coalition of child care associations, which commissioned the report from the State Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

“Child care access and affordability are significant challenges, affecting parents’ job prospects, productivity and career decisions, with the impact even greater for Black and Native American parents,” said DOC Director Lisa Brown. “Clearly, a dramatic investment in child care is needed for robust, equitable economic recovery in Washington state.”

The findings are alarming—more than half a million children lacked access to licensed child care, 18 percent of parents turned down jobs due to childcare issues, and the state only can only support 41-percent of children with child care in a climate where 61 percent of children live in a household where both parents work.

Worse yet, these issues predate the pandemic, which has only exacerbated these disparities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress and uncertainty to what the industry assessment revealed was already a fragile child care system,” said Task Force tri-chair Ryan Pricco.

The DOC says historic numbers of Washingtonians are out of work or working from home, facing new challenges of balancing job responsibilities and child care with many child programs closing down, and grandparents considered high-risk for contracting the coronavirus.

“Many workers with children, especially women, will exit the labor force without safe, affordable child care options. As a result, businesses and employers ready to resume and expand will find fewer workers available,” said Task Force tri-chair Amy Anderson. “Washington’s economy will not recover without child care.”

Now, the Task Force says they are working on a child care cost-estimation model, with the ultimate goal of putting together policy recommendations for the end of the year.