For Immediate Release
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Report on DFW Child Care Shows Challenges Facing State’s Littlest Learners
As State Leaders Debate Pre-K, Report Shows Need for Investment in Early Care
Austin – Working families in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area face substantial challenges in finding high quality, affordable child care that fits their scheduling needs, according to a new report by Texans Care for Children. The new report, "Caring for the Dallas Community’s Littlest Learners: A Case Study of Child Care Supply, Affordability, and Quality," examined the DFW area but provides lessons for all of Texas as state leaders debate strategies for improving early childhood care and education and ensuring all children begin school with the skills they need to succeed. The report is available on txchildren.org.
"Quality child care is a basic need for working families, but too often it’s unavailable or unaffordable," said Alice Bufkin, Early Opportunities Policy Associate at the nonprofit organization Texans Care for Children. "Texas should improve child care options so parents can provide for their families and know their children are getting the attention they need. Most child care providers want to help kids learn and thrive, but sometimes they don’t have the resources to do so. A comprehensive state strategy for early education must include working with child care providers to support our littlest learners.”
The child care report shows that in the DFW region in 2012, about 378,000 children ages birth to five, or approximately 60 percent of all children, lived in families where all parents were in the workforce. Among children under age 13, the rate was 63 percent, or nearly 1.4 million kids in need of adult supervision at some point during the day. By contrast, formal child care providers in the region, including center-based and home-based child care, have an official capacity of 301,000 children, and an operational capacity that is typically much lower. Parents face additional challenges when they seek care during nontraditional hours.
When parents do find child care that meets their scheduling needs, the tuition is often unaffordable. In Dallas County, for instance, the average annual full-time cost for a child under three years old in a center was $7,100 in 2012, representing a significant financial burden for many low- and medium-income families. While some families qualify for financial assistance, many have difficulty finding providers that accept subsidized care. In the North Central Texas workforce region, for instance, only 52 percent of surveyed licensed child care centers served any subsidized children in 2012. Furthermore, over 16,800 children were on the waiting list to receive subsidies in Texas in 2013.
When parents are able to find nearby, affordable child care, they often face additional challenges finding care that is high quality. Throughout the state, quality varies widely. A toddler with one provider may sit with a small group listening to a book, discussing the characters, and then finger painting a scene from the story. A toddler down the street might stare blankly at a TV for hours or sit crying in a room full of kids with an overwhelmed teacher who doesn't have the time or training to attend to them all. Parents want to be sure their children are safe and developing the social, emotional, and cognitive building blocks they need to succeed in school and life. Few of the providers in the DFW region, however, have received designations demonstrating high quality, such as the state's Texas Rising Star label. Furthermore, the state has one of the worst minimum standards for class sizes and adult-child ratios in the nation. Fortunately, many of the providers surveyed in Dallas County exceeded the state's minimum standards.
The report recommends reducing child-caregiver ratios; increasing provider reimbursements and reducing waitlists for child care subsidies; building on legislation that offers incentives to providers that meet high quality standards; and improving data collection on child care capacity.
The report includes detailed county-level data from 12 counties in the DFW region, with additional spotlights on child care in Dallas County.
Texans Care for Children has led policy advances for Texas children for nearly 30 years. The nonpartisan nonprofit organization serves as a voice for children, a source on children and a network for people who put kids first. Through policy analysis, statewide coalitions, grassroots campaigns and research, Texans Care For Children improves conditions for children in the areas of health, mental health, early opportunities, child protection and juvenile justice.