State task force report recommends options to address lack of access to affordable child care

  • December 11, 2019

Washington Child Care Collaborative Task Force launches next phase of work to deliver strategy, timeline and implementation plan to improve access to affordable, high-quality child care for all Washington families, beginning with a complete assessment of child care supply, demand and facility needs due this summer.

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce released the initial report from the Washington Child Care Collaborative Task Force and today launched a comprehensive assessment of the state’s child care industry and workforce. The industry assessment is the next step in the task force’s work to deliver a full strategy, timeline and implementation plan for increasing access to affordable, high-quality child care options for all Washington families by 2025.

Download the full Child Care Collaborative Task Force report

“Too many working parents in Washington are either paying more than they can afford for quality child care or struggling to find an affordable, safe place to provide care for their children,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown, who is also an economist. “Costs in human potential and economic productivity are mounting with the increasing cost and scarcity of child care. This diverse task force is taking important action to strengthen communities by providing recommendations for designing a child care system that works better for families, providers and employers in every industry.”

“Supporting families by providing high-quality and safe child care is the foundation for maintaining a well-functioning modern-day workforce. The more expensive and unattainable quality child care becomes for working families, the more harm children and families suffer as a result,” said Ross Hunter, secretary of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. “The findings and recommendations put forth by this task force meet its responsibility for solving the affordability and accessibility issue for working families. The goals can and must be met to improve the lives of parents, guardians and children, as well as strengthen the economy in the state of Washington.”

“In Washington state there are nearly 700,000 children under the age of 12 who need child care, but the state has fewer than 200,000 licensed slots,” said Child Care Aware of Washington Policy and Advocacy Director Ryan Pricco, one of the task force’s three co-chairs. “We must invest to expand licensed child care programs. It’s imperative that we have this detailed needs assessment first to identify where, and how many more, facilities are needed, so that we can plan accordingly for expansion of child care options for working families.”

“When we first began working on the issue, there was a question about why the business community would be part of the discussion around child care. The fact is, people are leaving jobs, not accepting jobs and foregoing education opportunities because they can’t find or afford child care,” said task force co-chair Amy Anderson, Association of Washington Business. “It’s a workforce issue. It’s an education issue. It’s a rural issue. Most important, it’s a Washington issue. We need to educate people and make them aware.”

“By supporting child care business operations, the state is supporting vital infrastructure that our families and economy rely on,” said task force co-chair Luc Jasmin, Washington Childcare Centers Association and Parkview Early Learning Center.

The initial task force report includes independent research on the mounting costs of child care, released in November, and the impact to Washington’s employers and economy.  Half of Washington parents who responded to the survey said child care is difficult to find and keep. A quarter of respondents said the cost alone kept them from using child care.

The task force found:

  • Washington lacks sufficient affordable, high-quality child care.
  • Child care access affects Washington’s workforce, employers and economy.
  • A comprehensive strategy is needed to improve child care access and affordability.

The task force report envisions Washington state as the nation’s most equitable, affordable, and accessible child care system that benefits all parents, child care staff and providers, employers and communities through:

  • Quality, affordable, accessible licensed child care that gives parents diverse choices to meet their family and employment needs, regardless of their income, race, or where they live.
  • An economically healthy and diverse child care industry with a supported, well-compensated workforce that meets the supply and choice requirements of families and employers.
  • Increased workforce productivity when employers support the child care needs of their employees through the availability of a scalable set of tools and incentives that increase access and affordability of high-quality child care.
  • New strategies and investments from the public and private sectors that engage employers in supporting all working families’ access to high-quality, affordable child care.

The report goes on to detail multiple recommendations organized around four key goals:

  • Stabilize, support and sustain the child care workforce, providers and industry. (10 recommendations)
  • Increase employer supports for child care. (Six recommendations)
  • Streamline permitting and licensing to better support the construction, renovation and acquisition of child care facilities. (Five recommendations)
  • Reduce disparities in child care service delivery and access. (10 recommendations)

Commerce said today that ICF has been hired to produce comprehensive research on the state’s child care programs and workforce. This next phase of work will also engage with and survey diverse parents to find out if families can access the type of care that best meets their needs, and if not, why. Researchers will assess the supply and demand in each region of the state and among demographic groups. This information will help the task force identify gaps and opportunities for policy makers to improve access.

The task force will follow the child care industry assessment with a set of policy recommendations for workforce compensation and Washington’s Working Connections Child Care subsidy program, and an implementation plan for subsidy changes, due to the governor and Legislature in December 2020.

Information and updates on task force work are available on the task force web page.

About the Child Care Collaborative Task Force

The Child Care Collaborative Task Force was created by legislation in 2018. The task force includes child care providers and advocates, child care workforce development and labor groups, business associations and employers, state agencies and legislators. The group will sunset in 2021 after fulfilling its mandate to develop a strategy, timeline and implementation plan to achieve the goal of access to affordable, high-quality child care for all Washington families by 2025.

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