Child care has long been a significant barrier to long term employment for families with young children. Across the country, parents express worry and frustration that lack of affordable child care, as well as the low number of providers can necessitate leaving a job that sometimes is the only thing standing between stability and homelessness. Another consideration is families that invest in child care could qualify for up to a $3000 child care tax credit for one child or up to $6,000 for two children.5
There are some communities across the country that are especially hard hit by the lack of child care providers. These communities, in which the number of children under the age of 5 significantly outnumbers the availability of quality care, are called “child care deserts”1 This term is not presently well known but the Center for American Progress is introducing a working definition in recognition of the seriousness of the issue on a national level. The Center defines a child desert by zip code with at least 30 percent of children under the age of 5 and either no or limited number of child care providers. See Figure 1.
Colorado-based Efforts- WorkLife Partnership Child Care Initiative
As per the Center for American Progress, while only “38 percent of Colorado zip codes can be classified as child care deserts, yet they contain 46 percent of the state’s residents.” Three in five Hispanic Coloradans live in a child care desert which means that this group is 50% more likely to live in a child-care desert than non-Hispanic white Coloradoans.
Several of these child care deserts are situated along Interstate 70 in Colorado, a road that bisects the center of the state east-to-west. All along the road, large industrial tracts sit side-by side with residential pockets that house many poor Hispanic working families. Liddy Romero, executive director of WorkLife Partnership, a Denver-based Sustainable Workforce Program, has said that there will be a critical need for a larger supply of licensed child care providers once construction along I-70 begins which will bring many construction workers and other employees to the area.4
To build a network of quality providers, WorkLife Partnership has launched a Child Care Initiative that will help increase access and affordability to Home-based Child Care Centers in Colorado. The WorkLife Child Care program will award up to $2,500 to in-home child care providers to assist with marketing, purchasing curriculum materials and obtaining needed supplies and equipment.
The initiative benefits employers as well. According to Cathy Fabiano, Child Care Business Manager for WorkLife Partnership, employers “can feel more comfortable hiring workers with young children when they realize that child care is covered” since this will result in increased retention and lower both real and opportunity costs associated with turnover.
To foster participation, Ms. Fabiano travels from door-to-door inviting licensed providers to form a sustainable network with access to resources and on-going support. WorkLife Partnership has formed an alliance with Care.com, a national marketplace for in-home care and will help providers to create a profile so they can be matched with families requiring child care.
The group is already working with 17 child care providers along the I-70 corridor and hopes to expand across the state and on a national basis.
1 Child Care Deserts-An Analysis of Child Care Centers by ZIP code in 8 States. Center for American Progress (2017)
2,4 Schimke, A., Robles, Y. Life in a child care desert: What one Denver neighborhood can teach us about solving a national problem (2017
- 3. Francisca Dussaillant, “Usage of Child Care and Education Centers: The Proximity Factor,” SAGE Open6 (2) (2016): 1–13, available at http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/spsgo/6/2/2158244016652668.full.pdf.
- 5. Internal Revenue Service: Ten Things to Know About the Child and Dependent Care Credit (updated August 2017)