Many of Orange County’s working families face extraordinary difficulties securing childcare, particularly for infants and toddlers, as few licensed spots exist and waiting lists for full-day care options grow longer by the day.
Meanwhile, parents who do manage to find full-time licensed care pay an average of about $15,650 annually for one child and more than $26,000 for two — the latter of which constitutes approximately 26% of their average household income.
Those and other concerning statistics were recently uncovered in an analysis directed by First 5 Orange County’s Children and Families Commission, which found massive shortages in childcare options, especially for children under age 2, and a growing need among parents for affordable care.
Kim Goll, First 5 Orange County president and chief executive, said Tuesday the agency has historically focused on the importance of early brain development in preparing children for kindergarten.
But when the group was recently preparing a strategic plan to chart a course for advocacy and support in the years ahead, childcare came up as an area that could use a closer look.
“We had some early indications the current system wasn’t meeting the needs. We also knew there was a tremendous wait list for subsidized childcare that started to hint at a real problem,” Goll said. “This was our first attempt to really look at what does childare look like?”
A small team of analysts sought to understand the availability and types of care offered in Orange County, as well as the flow of public funding for such programs and key providers and partners within the sector.
Their work was conducted from November to February. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, when nearly half of countywide childcare providers closed their programs between mid-March and early June, even as essential employees reported to work.