Missouri child care providers say their industry is in crisis. We want to hear from parents and providers.

Missouri child care providers say their industry is in crisis. We want to hear from parents and providers.

Written by and
Edited by Derek Kravitz

Missouri has been particularly hard-hit by the national trend of unaffordable and inaccessible child care. This legislative session, the issue has captured the bipartisan attention of lawmakers and the governor.

We want to hear from families and providers about Missouri’s child care crisis, so we’re launching a form that you can use to tell us about your experiences working in or sending your children to child care programs in the state.

Challenges parents and providers face

Missouri lawmakers have framed child care as a top issue facing both the state economy and early childhood development.

The state loses more than $1 billion annually from accessibility, quality and cost-related hurdles to child care, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report estimated in 2021, noting that without suitable child care options, many Missouri parents are forced to leave the workforce entirely.

The federal government has doled out over $1 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to Missouri to stabilize the industry, and the state is still fine-tuning its aid programs to prop up child care. Last fiscal year, the number of state-regulated child care providers overall declined by nearly 10%.

More than half of Missourians live in a child care desert, according to the Center for American Progress. That number is even higher — 70% — for rural families.

When families can secure child care, it is often unaffordable: The average cost for an infant in center-based care in 2021 was over $10,000. That cost is equivalent to 11% of a married couple’s median annual income, or over one-third of a single parent’s median income.

At the same time, high fees rarely translate into a lucrative business model for providers, who generally receive low wages and benefits — the median hourly wage for a child care worker in Missouri was just under $12 in 2021.

Low-income families who qualify for state child care assistance can fall through the cracks. Only one in every three economically-disadvantaged children from birth to age 5 uses Missouri’s publicly-funded early care programs targeting low-income families, according to the Office of Childhood.

Nationally, Missouri ranked in the bottom half of all states in terms of spending on and access to publicly-funded preschool in 2020, the most recent data from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

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