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March 18, 2024

Child Care Capacity Increases in Skagit County

Child care is essential to life-long health and economic stability. Decades of research show long-lasting impacts of child care. Children who receive high-quality care:

  • earn up to 33% more pay over the lifetime,
  • are 30% more likely to graduate high school,
  • are 70% less likely to be arrested for violent crime,
  • have better physical, mental, and behavioral health-related outcomes as adults.

Skagit County is designated a “child care desert,” meaning there is a lack of available child care options for families. The COVID-19 pandemic only deepened challenges families face finding care for their children. During the pandemic many child care programs closed, resulting in a loss of 580 slots (22% of capacity), making it even more challenging for families to find child care for their children. As a result, child care was identified as a major need in the COVID Recovery Plan, a report and action plan developed by the Population Health Trust, a community advisory committee to the Skagit County Board of Health.

Since the COVID Recovery Plan was released in 2022, the Population Health Trust and many local partners have been working to improve access to child care in Skagit County. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, Skagit County has funded Child Care Aware Northwest and the Center for Retention and Expansion of Child Care to offer outreach, education, technical assistance, and start-up grants for new child care providers in our community.

We are excited to announce that collective efforts are paying off! As of today, six new Skagit providers have opened their doors to provide care for an additional 72 children. This includes much-needed infant care and providers who can serve families whose primary language is Spanish. Several additional providers are in the pipeline to support more expansion in the future. To help businesses recruit and retain employees and expand access further, efforts to offer employer-based child care, a first for Skagit County, are also underway. If you are looking for child care options, call the Child Care Aware of Washington Family Call Center at 1-800-466-1114.

We all benefit from investments in a strong supply of high-quality child care. Access to affordable child care promotes the healthy development of children and ensures parents and caregivers can go to work or school. It also improves employee retention, which helps businesses, our economy, and essential systems thrive. For example, access to affordable child care allows healthcare systems to recruit quality medical staff, improving health care quality and access for all. It also helps ensure first responder agencies are fully staffed to respond to emergencies and keeps teachers in classrooms.
Skagit County is fortunate to have child care providers continuing to provide care under difficult economic conditions, new providers ready to help families, and a strong support system for providers to thrive despite inadequate policies and funding to support them. The Population Health Trust and partners will continue to advocate to expand the supply of child care options, adequately compensate the early education workforce, and reduce child care costs for working families to less than or equal to 7% of their income.

For additional information about the child care expansion work happening in Skagit County, please contact Kristen Ekstran at kekstran@co.skagit.wa.us or (360) 416-1524.