Child Care Update

September 2, 2020
Children playing with Legos while wearing face masks.

Gov. Inslee recently announced that most students in Washington should resume remote learning in the fall, which means that the majority of parents will need to continue balancing work and child care. The work of our agency is focused on children, youth and families impacted by these decisions, but it also touches home for many of you as parents or caregivers. Parent or not, we are all concerned about what will happen this September to our families and children. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers at this point.

Existing Child Care Market

There are about 1.2 million kids in Washington between birth and 12 years old, the typical age when kids need child care. About 64% of those kids are in households where all the adults work. That means more than 700,000 kids potentially need care. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) licenses roughly 187,000 child care slots, and 46,000 of those are currently closed due to the pandemic. The reality is that there are going to be a whole lot of kids needing care, and it won’t be possible to make the system five times larger in the next month.

Child Care and Safety

DCYF continues to demand quality child care that follows guidelines to keep children safe. Child care providers are incorporating the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) social distancing guidance and Department of Labor and Industry face covering requirements. Additionally, DCYF recently created a tip sheet for providers highlighting Key Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in Child Care, and the DOH issued guidance for Child Care, Youth Development, and Summer Day Camps During the COVID-19 Outbreak.

How Parents Can Access Child Care

DCYF works to ensure that families in our state have access to quality child care and that child care providers have the supports they need to be successful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DCYF Support for Providers

DCYF has supports in place and has also made changes to meet the needs of child care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including: 

  • DCYF provided grants to licensed child care providers in Washington State that stayed open during the pandemic.
  • Subsidy reimbursement and incentives for child care facilities to stay open and serving children, subject to DOH guidelines.
  • License-exempt child care options, including Family, Friends and Neighbors (FFN), educational or seasonal camp model, part day (less than four hours) services, etc.
  • DCYF provided a one-time incentive of $250 to FFN providers that continued to stay open during the pandemic and serve children on subsidy.
  • Flexibility in meeting licensing regulations to accommodate emergent situations, including an Emergency Waiver process.

DCYF continues to work to stabilize the current child care market and plans to support families in accessing care. DCYF is also coordinating referrals as families and foster parents seek child care.