Sarah is a single mom living in Port Angeles with her 3-month old son Xavier. She called Child Care Resources for help finding a child care program that would care for her son Monday through Friday from 6 am to 4 pm. As a low-income household, Sarah uses the Working Connections Child Care subsidy through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to pay for child care.
Sarah soon learned that finding a child care slot that meets all the needs of a family is often a numbers game. Even though Sarah was seeking care during typical child care hours, the age of her son and the fact that she was using state child care subsidy drastically limited the number of slots available to her. Specifically, of the 26 total licensed child care providers in Port Angeles, only 16 accept DSHS child care subsidy as payment. Of those 16 providers, only 11 accept infants in their care, and only 4 of those 11 are open the hours that Sarah needs care. Additionally, sites that provide infant care only have only one classroom with 6-8 slots, since licensing ratios for infants make infant care much more expensive. The chances that one of the four child care program matches has an opening when Sarah needs it, and is in a location reasonably convenient, are slim.
As CCR talks about child care needs with more than 18,000 families across Washington each year, options are increasingly fewer for families using child care subsidy—typically the families who need child care the most. The overall number of subsidy slots is dwindling at the same time the need is increasing. This is because a child care provider only receives 50-75% of their tuition rate from a DSHS subsidy reimbursement—often not enough to cover rising costs to operate a child care business and leaving no incentive to offer subsidy slots at all.
Sarah was eventually able to place her son in child care, but there are many vulnerable families in our community who cannot find child care in our growing local economy, adding further disadvantage to their situation and increasing the school-readiness gap for their children.