A recent analysis by Children at Risk found a notable lack of child care seats in many areas of Greater Dallas County.
Child care is key for the current workforce to go to work while also developing the skills in kids necessary for the future workforce. About 90% of a child’s brain develops by age 5, and the earlier they have access to high-quality child care, the more opportunities they have to succeed in the future.
This is a longstanding issue that the pandemic has exacerbated: there are now only enough child care seats in general for 50 of 100 children of working parents, which is down from 90 child care seats per 100 children in 2017. And there are only 14.3 quality or working towards quality seats, which is defined by the Texas Rising Star quality rating and improvement system, for every 100 kids of working parents.
There is a particular lack of seats in areas where families are more likely to be living in poverty or facing economic insecurity. Greater Dallas County has 38 child care zip code deserts, according to the Children at Risk report. A zip code desert is defined as where the number of children under age 6 is three times greater than the licensed capacity of child care providers within that zip code. Among the child care desert zip codes, 77% (3 of 4) have at least 10% of the population living below the poverty line, whereas for all of Dallas County, 59% (3 of 5) of zip codes have 10% or more living below the poverty line.
Subsidized child care is specifically for parents who are working or who are going back to school to advance their education and who also meet a specific need criteria, the most common of which is income-based. This is important because the cost of child care often exceeds the income of families in low-wage jobs who are trying to work. The subsidy helps ensure they’re paying under 10%, and not 110%, of their income for child care.
In 2020, an influx of federal funds allowed more children to be served through the child care subsidy system, but that number returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.
Of the 28 Texas workforce regions, Greater Dallas has the 11th highest number of child care seats per 100 children of working parents.
And of those workforce regions, the greater Dallas area has the eighth highest number of “desert zip codes.”
A way forward
It is up to all of us in Dallas County to identify and enact potential solutions that can improve access to quality child care for our current and future workforce:
- Use data to identify where centers currently have openings, especially in desert zip codes, and connect families to those centers.
- Maximize existing state and federal funds to increase access to subsidized care.
- Repurpose existing business, county, or city building space to open additional childcare seats.
- Increase the worth of our child care teachers through paying a living wage, creating access to benefits like retirement, and providing high-quality training and support to ensure that our classrooms have the best teachers in the critical early years.
- Employers providing financial support to parents to offset the high-costs of child care.
Early Matters Dallas is committed to working collectively to build momentum toward addressing this issue. Visit us at EarlyMattersDallas.org to stay informed on how to be a part of the solution.