Parents are their child’s first and best teacher. They deserve the right to choose which care situation is best for their child, whether that child is at home or anywhere else. When parents decide to entrust their children to early care and learning professionals outside their homes, they deserve to know their children will be safe, healthy, and learning while in their care. 

Families are the building blocks of our communities. 

No parent or caregiver should go to sleep at night worrying about how they will pay their bills or whether they will have reliable child care the next day. 

These three goals are central to addressing Utah's current child care crisis:

Care for kids must be affordable.

Utah parents and caregivers are making choices for their families based on the costs of child care. These costs limit the choices families have about: when to have children; how many children to have; what jobs to take or careers to pursue; whether to stay home with their kids; or when to enter the workforce. 

The reality is in most two-parent families in Utah, both parents work (53%), creating a need for child care. Child care is expensive. Most families struggle to pay weekly or monthly "tuition," which can cost as much as a mortgage or college tuition. Only 14% of eligible Utah kids receive support from the state to help pay for their child care. With an average annual cost for infant care for $9,193 and toddler care for $7,678, Utah is one of 33 states where infant care is more expensive than college

It's even worse for larger families. For a family of four utilizing child care for just two children—an infant and a 4-year-old—it costs $16,871/year.  A typical family in Utah would have to spend 17% of their income on child care for an infant and a 4-year-old. This is more than double the recommendation for affordability, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

And while inflation has subsided for most other industries, the cost of child care has not relented. As post-COVID inflation is starting to ease, the same cannot be said for child care costs. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows the average price of child care services has increased by 6% in one year. This is nearly twice the overall inflation rate (3.2%).

Care for kids must be accessible.

Utah parents deserve a real choice when choosing which form of child care is best for their family, whether that’s at a child care center, in the care of grandparents, or with a stay-at-home parent. Increasing access to affordable, high-quality child care improves parent choice by providing more options in the marketplace. There is little incentive, besides a love for children, to open a child care program. As a labor-intensive industry, operations are expensive and most child care owners operate on razor-thin profit margins (less than 1%). The average annual provider wage in Utah is $12.87/hour (or $26,770/year). Raising wages is vital for a functional child care system in Utah. Low wages and a lack of access to benefits, including healthcare and retirement, has made the profession unsustainable, leading to high rates of turnover estimated at 26-40% of the workforce leaving their jobs each year. Since Utah’s current child care system only meets 36% of the state's need, we must invest in the early child care profession to attract and retain a robust workforce. We must also acknowledge that the current child care system is subsidized by unsustainable financial and personal sacrifices by early childhood educators and their families. With the largest driver of quality in child care being interactions between the child and caregiver, kids lose without a well-compensated, skilled, and engaged workforce.

Care for kids must meet kids' needs.

Whether a child is in the care of a parent or professional caregiver, multiple studies demonstrate the substantial impact early childhood learning has on a child's development. We are all working towards the same goal: for every child in Utah to have the chance to grow up healthy, strong and ready to learn. Early learning prepares children to learn, grow, and succeed. 

Science shows parents and caregivers are key contributors to children’s foundational brain development and each kid's childhood experience can change their life's trajectory. Early supportive and responsive relationships with caregivers can prevent or even reverse the effects of toxic stress in children which can disrupt the development of brain architecture. Children who receive quality early learning demonstrate greater cognitive and socioemotional growth. Care for kids is the foundation of the next generation’s health, stability, and ultimate success. We must support parents, caregivers, and educators who shape the lives of children.