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Hundreds More Early Childhood Care Centers Are Needed In Utah

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Department of Workforce Services
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Utah’s need for more childcare access was studied by the Department of Workforce Services earlier this year. The report shows more than 154,000 children aged six and under live in families that need childcare, but there is a 65 percent gap between the need and the capacity available.

Director of the Utah Office of Childcare at the Department of Workforce Services Tracy Gruber says the Childcare Access Report was finalized in mid-March. She says they decided to do the study because national reports showed Utah had childcare deserts. But the national data did not include children whose parents used alternative childcare options. Gruber says not all parents want regulated childcare programs.

“And the way that we figured that out is that we had also done a survey of parents with young children to evaluate how they were getting her childcare needs met. And that’s what made our study unique. We combined both the quantitative numbers of children under the age of six where both parents or the parent is working and also the qualitative. What were parents actually deciding to do to address their childcare needs?”

She says the report did not get the full attention because it was released the day before Utah schools closed to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The childcare system in Utah and really nationally has taken a very significant hit due to the pandemic. I'm happy to report that in Utah it's recovered pretty significantly. But at that period of time, and what's happening nationally, is that a significant number of programs have closed and that has presented significant problems for families and also the people who work in those programs.”

The report claims economic losses of $57 billion nationally due to gaps in childcare access. This translates to losses for employers, employees, and taxpayers.

“That number probably will have gone up although it's very difficult to state exactly because there's also been so much change in the economy with more people working from home and you know a lot of people, probably not so much in Utah, leaving the labor force given what's going on.”

Quality childcare costs vary depending on the age of the child. Caregiver to infant ratios is four to one, where their ratios would be higher with a six-year-old.

“So, we like to establish our subsidy rates at a level that a child who is covered by a child care subsidy has the opportunity to attend a program that's more likely to be providing higher care for that child, and therefore better preparing them for kindergarten.”

Funding comes from the federal Childcare and Development Fund, which offers block grants to assist low-income working families. The annual cost of childcare for an infant can be be as high as $12,000 in urban counties or $10,000 in rural counties.
The report's findings show that Utah needs more quality, early childcare programs. They suggest an additional 274 licensed-center programs and 1,258 licensed-family childcare programs to accommodate Utah family's preferences.

A link to the Childcare Access Report can be found on KPCW.org.

KPCW News reports on issues affecting children age 0 through three years old is brought to you by the early childhood fund at the Park City Community Foundation.

For more information go tohttps://www.earlychildhoodalliance.net/

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