80% of Washington child care programs are understaffed

Parents across Puget Sound say it’s a real struggle to find reliable child care these days. According to ChildCareAware, which represents 5,000 Washington providers, 80% of programs in the state report they’re understaffed right now.

Oak Harbor moms Jessica Vanvelkinburgh and Amber Bovee say they’ve experienced long waitlists and not enough options.

“The day care that my children are in has anywhere between 70 and 90 children on a waitlist at any given time,” said Vanvelkinburg.

“Waiting lists right now are horrendously long,” said Bovee. “A lot of parents don’t have a choice. It’s either hope for the best and hope your child is safe, or don’t go to work.”

Ryan Pricco of ChildCareAware says some of these small businesses offer a poverty wage with no benefits. Therefore, it’s hard to recruit people into the industry.

“Child care educators are not paid anywhere near the amount of money they deserve,” said Pricco.

Day care providers KIRO 7 spoke to say raising pay is a Catch-22.

“Parents are tapped out,” said Pricco.

A 2020 ChildCareAware study showed a Washington-state family with kids under 6 years old spends nearly 20% of the median household income on child care alone. Pricco thinks the solution is state funding for early care and education, like what already exists with K-12.

“We are always going to have these problems. We’re never going to be able to meet demand for child care,” said Pricco. “Until we get serious about investing in it.”