Finding reliable and reasonably priced child care is a persistent concern and challenge for working parents. After all, they can’t be productive at work if they are worrying about their children’s care.
Our state’s businesses simply can’t operate efficiently without effective child care and the numbers bear this out.
A state task force found that Washington businesses lose over $2 billion each year due to employee turnover or missed work resulting from child care issues. That’s a staggering amount of money and underscores the urgency of finding effective solutions.
Quality child care allows parents to join the workforce, which is more important than ever as many businesses struggle to find reliable, qualified workers. But let’s pause to point out another key benefit of quality child care: preparing kids for school. Studies have shown kids from low-income households are less likely to be kindergarten-ready than their peers.
It’s a complicated issue to be sure.
Our state has seen a 5% drop in child care availability in the past 10 years, with 1,500 child care seats lost since 2020, according to the Association of Washington Business.
It’s a mixed picture in the Tri-Cities, according to data from the nonprofit Child Care Aware group.
In Franklin County, the number of child care providers has increased 20% in the past five years to 171 providers with capacity for 3,410 children.
Benton County saw a 3% drop in the same period, to 133 providers with capacity for 4,321 children.
Kylee Sullivan clearly sees the need. She plans to expand her day care operations in the Tri-Cities. Her facilities currently serve more than 1,000 children, and she’s planning to open three more later this year.
We also recently reported on Ana and Simon Samaniego’s plans to expand their preschool and child care center, My Little Planet in Kennewick. They said their expansion relied on a Washington state grant to cover overhead startup costs.
It is crucial for policymakers, businesses and communities to collaborate on innovative solutions that address the growing need for quality child care, which relies on offering livable wages and benefits to child care employees.
It’s a tall order for our state to develop and fund a financing model that keeps child care affordable for all families and ensures adequate compensation for the child care workforce.
By investing in and supporting such initiatives, we can not only enhance the well-being of our working parents but also contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. We hope our lawmakers are paying attention.
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