August 25, 2020

Washington’s Child Care Crisis Leaves Nearly 550,000 Children Without Child Care

TACOMA, WA – Aug. 25, 2020 – Thousands of children across Washington are unable to attend licensed child care because our state’s child care system cannot meet the needs of working families. Nearly 550,000 children under the age of 12 have no access to child care, despite the fact that 60 percent of children 0-12 in Washington live in homes where all adults work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced our child care supply even further because some providers have reluctantly closed their doors due to financial difficulty with not having enough children to care for as some working parents are keeping their children home, fear of the virus or actual exposure to the virus. Since March, up to 24 percent of Washington’s licensed child care programs have closed. Currently, 18 percent of our state’s child care programs are closed and not serving children.

Now, as most school districts have moved to remote-learning only, parents are scrambling to create child care plans for their school-age children, but there are even fewer options than there were before COVID-19. For those families that do find child care for their school-age children, they will face the additional challenge of paying for child care during the hours their children would have typically been in school. This is a huge financial burden for middle class families. Child Care Aware of Washington is helping child care providers who want to care for school-age children full-time make necessary preparations, and our Family Center is helping families find child care options for school-age children near them.

“Today’s Child Care Collaborative Task Force report illustrates the depth of Washington’s child care crisis. The supply of quality, affordable child care has not met the needs of our working families for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse as some child care programs have had to make the financial decision to close their doors,” said Deeann Burtch Puffert, chief executive officer for Child Care Aware of WA. “Everyone at Child Care Aware of WA is working to help keep programs that want to stay open, stay open, and connect families to child care near them.”

Nearly half of Washington’s licensed child care providers report they are at risk of closing permanently due to the devastating impacts of the pandemic. The loss of these high-quality programs would significantly hurt Washington’s economy because working parents cannot work when they do not have child care for their children.

Our state’s child care crisis has already cost employers $2.08 billion in direct costs in 2017, and $6.5 billion in direct and opportunity costs, according to the 2019 report, The Mounting Costs of Child Care, from the Washington State Department of Commerce and other member organizations of the state’s Child Care Collaborative Task Force.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress and uncertainty to what the industry assessment revealed was already a fragile child care system,” said Child Care Collaborative Task Force tri-chair Ryan Pricco, director of policy and advocacy for Child Care Aware of WA. “Investments are needed to keep our child care system operating. Investments in the child care industry are investments in all other industries because child care supports all employers.”

Child Care Aware of Washington is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to connecting families to local, high-quality, licensed child care and early learning programs, and to supporting providers who deliver high-quality care. As a statewide network of six regional agencies, we work side-by-side with child care providers, offering professional development services and higher education scholarships to help providers integrate research-based, best practices into their programs. We track child care supply, demand and cost data statewide and in every county. We are committed to ensuring that each and every child in Washington, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture, primary language or economic status, has access to the quality care and early learning they need to succeed in school and life. For more information, please visit our website at and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @childcarewa.