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Report: Pandemic stressing Washington’s ‘already fragile’ child care system

Bus driver Treva White and nutritionist Shaunté Fields deliver meals to children and their families on May 6, 2020 in Seattle. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

A new report commissioned by the Washington State Department of Commerce worries that the COVID-19 crisis could soon stress the state’s already strained child care system.

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The study, done by a collaborative task force of child care organizations, found that roughly 550,000 kids in Washington do not have access to child care services, and that “the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced capacity even further.”

That’s partly driven by the increased need for remote learning, and the fact that 18% of Washington’s child care programs are currently closed, leaving working parents with few options.

“Many districts have announced that school will start online only, which puts even greater stress on an already fragile child care system,” the report reads, noting that the state’s child care resources are only able to support 41% of Washington’s kids.

It also found that many parents have been forced to alter their jobs or work schedules to accommodate for the lack of child care options.

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“Several parents indicated that the hours of operation at most [child care] centers are not sufficient to cover all of their working time, or that they have had to switch jobs or leave the paid workforce because their work schedule was not compatible with center hours,” the report noted.

Of the parents surveyed, 18% reported turning down a job over child care issues.

In the days ahead, the task force hopes to put together a model estimating the cost and necessary logistics of a more robust statewide child care model. It expects to have that ready by the end of the year.

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