Mapping America’s Child Care Deserts

Posted by Center for American Progress on September 25, 2017

On a Saturday in August 2016, Samantha Harmon received a shocking email. Her son Nathan’s child care center would close permanently, effective on Monday. Without backup care, Samantha immediately took off work to try to find another child care provider.1 The Harmons live in a middle-class suburb of Rochester, New York, where licensed child care is hard to find. Local news station WHAM interviewed the Harmons and other parents whose children attended the Creative Kidz Child Care Center. These parents described themselves as being in panic mode while they scrambled to arrange backup care, and they had good reason to worry. Like 60 percent of New Yorkers, they live in a child care desert with a severe undersupply of licensed child care.

Fifty miles to the south, in Livingston County, New York, licensed child care is even sparser. The area is largely rural, with small towns and cities scattered among rolling hills and farmland. Many families only have one or two licensed child care providers from which to choose—if they are fortunate. In the Livingston County seat of Geneseo, a city of roughly 10,000 residents, there are only three licensed child care providers, with a combined capacity to care for fewer than 75 children. In areas such as these, parents are forced to make difficult decisions that might include finding unlicensed child care, leaving the workforce, or patching together a network of family and friends. For many families, these options are not ideal for children or for parents.

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