FAMILY

You could be living in a child care desert. Here’s what that means

Feb 15, 2024, 11:26 AM | Updated: 12:12 pm

children at a daycare, child care desert issues affecting utah...

Preschool students listen to a story at A to Z Building Blocks in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Most Wasatch Front neighborhoods from Provo to Logan are considered a child care desert. Several bills aimed at addressing those deserts are making their way through the legislature this session.

Child care desert issues nationally and locally

Utah is just one of many states experiencing a severe child care shortage.

In Wisconsin, the waitlist to get your child through the daycare doors can last two years.

In Oregon, the waitlist included unimplanted embryos in 2022.

The Center for American Progress defines these areas as “child deserts,” or places where two-thirds of children do not have the opportunity to enter a child care facility.

As of 2019, Utah topped the list of states with the highest population living in a child care desert. According to data from the Center for American Progress, 77% of Utah live in a child care desert.

What’s causing the shortage?

One reason for such an intense lack of child care is its cost.

In Utah, daycare averages out at $637 a month for kids over four years old, according to Tootris. For infants, the number is $829 per month.

For reference, Utahns pay an average of $726 per month for a new car, according to Nerdwallet.

To address the high costs, one bill this legislative session seeks to expand affordable child care options by converting existing state-owned buildings into child care centers.

Another bill looks to expand the number of children an unlicensed child care provider can care for at a time.

Both bills have advanced and are awaiting further action.

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You could be living in a child care desert. Here’s what that means