Dickson: A look inside the child care crisis

May 22, 2024, 4:00 PM

a utah child care provider and several children...

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

You’ve heard about the child care crisis in Utah. Parents can’t afford child care. Child care workers can’t afford to live on what they make.

I wanted to know what that really looks like when life becomes unworkable.

“We look at daycare differently,” said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “These are things that families need to have, have a right to have. The availability is not there, so they’re becoming creative, and I’m seeing the results of that creativity.”

The results of that creativity are frightening.

Home alone

“Some of these families find it easier to buy an inexpensive cell phone, let the kids be on their own and call to check on them because they can’t afford care,” Bott said.

This doesn’t happen just in families with teenagers. Sometimes elementary-age kids are sent home with a cell phone.

“A lot of families we have been seeing are sending kids to the public library after school because it’s warm. It’s safe. It’s supervised,” Bott explained. “The library system called us and said, ‘We have nothing to feed them. We have to feed these kids.”

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

So the Utah Food Bank has been working with the Utah library system to provide a dinner meal to these children.

“We serve dinner in 11 public libraries five days a week because these kids have no place to go,” Bott said. “A public library should not be the answer to unaffordable daycare. A family should not have to choose to send a child home alone with an inexpensive phone. These families and children deserve safety and dignity and care and compassion.”

“If these were your children”

If you worked with feeding hungry families all over the state of Utah, you would be forgiven for feeling passionate about this issue.

“You can damn well bet if you were the person making the decisions and those were your children, you’d be looking at this through a whole different lens,” Bott said. “Forgive my passion, but I see these small, incredible little people that we’re serving. Daycare is becoming a frightening reality that so many families don’t have access to and shame on us.”

Not a single Utah county has an adequate number of licensed child care providers.

Only 36% of the state’s needs for child care are met. According to a report from Voices for Utah Children, two out of three families need both parents to work in order to afford housing and other basic needs.

“Let me give you an example,” Bott shared. “Young lady, nurse, makes $32/hour, has three children who have to be in daycare. They quoted her $28/hour. That leaves her $4. She has a job that pays a great wage. If she can’t afford it, those who make a lot less will never be able to afford it.”

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Dickson: A look inside the child care crisis