All 36 counties in Oregon are considered “childcare deserts” according to a new report from OSU. The report shows that this shortage of regulated childcare partially stems from lack of publicly funded childcare options.
A childcare desert is defined as an area having a single state licensed childcare slot per three or more area children. Childcare facilities and in-home providers require licensing from the state to qualify as regulated, opposed to the unregulated childcare from family or neighbors that some parents utilize.
According to a report commissioned by Oregon State University and the Oregon Early Learning Division, there are eight 0-2 year-olds per slot across Oregon, while there are three 3-5 year-olds per slot. All 36 counties are childcare deserts for infants and toddlers, while 27 counties are childcare deserts for preschoolers.
From chief reporter Megan Pratt:
“Availability of childcare plays a critical role in the lives of Oregon’s families with young children, including if, where, and when parents work. There’s also a growing understanding of the central role stable, quality childcare plays in supporting a child’s early development.”
The report concentrates on childcare access and does not focus on factors such as affordability and quality of care, which also play a major role in childcare planning. Childcare in Oregon is extremely costly, with median annual prices reaching $14,160 for one toddler in a child care center in 2018.
The report also shows the importance of publicly funded programs that provide childcare to low income Oregonians. Seven of the nine counties that provide adequate childcare to preschool aged children would become deserts if not for these programs, according to the report.
While the number of Oregon childcare slots has increased over the past few years, the rate of growth has not kept up with the population of children under five. The report, which is the first to codify childcare by age group and county, shows there is one spot for every five children aged five and younger.
By Jake Dee