Market Insights Vol. 3: Available Slots vs. Family Demand in Q2

We take a look back at Q2 supply and demand data, child care's role in our economic recovery, announcing a new partner, and more.

Welcome to this edition of the Market Insights Report! This month, we’re taking a look back at Q2 supply and demand data and what it means as more families across the country return to work and child care. We’ll also explore how child care plays a critical role in overcoming staffing shortages and economic recovery as a whole, share an exciting partnership announcement, and feature the incredible work of The Care Institute in the Greater Boston area.

Let’s dive in!

Demand increased over the past three months, but the shifts in available care have not.

What do we know?

Misalignment continues with supply and demand, for both private pay and subsidy families. We believe that due to staffing shortages, existing supply isn’t changing that drastically from last quarter

  • Since Q1, we saw a 9.6% increase in families looking for 0-12 month care, which was also in greatest demand in Q1.

    Family demands differ by payment type, whether private pay or subsidy.

    • In Q2, 32% of families on subsidy were looking for care for 24-48 month children vs. 29.3% of private pay families.

    • For younger children, 17.9% of families on subsidy were looking for care for 12-24 month children vs. 23.6% of private pay families.

Staffing shortages are contributing to unfilled seats and complicating already labor-intensive, growing waitlists.

Waitlist sign ups and enrollments indicated that many families were preparing to return to work, but there was still some waiting to determine when that exact timeframe would be. Now that many families have returned to some hybrid form of work, those child care plans are becoming reality.

Child care enrollment is a vital piece to the puzzle in our economic recovery, and we cannot afford to forget the role it plays.

From restaurants to hotels to manufacturing, staffing shortages are prevalent in industries across the country. Employers cannot find the skilled labor they need to recover. What many don’t realize, however, is that staffing shortages are actually a two-part issue impacted by child care. 

First, for the employers who cannot find skilled workers, the lack of child care remains a barrier for many parents to re-enter the workforce. Low-income workers are further impacted by the high cost of child care as prices for many providers have inevitably increased as their revenue has been limited, but cleaning and operational costs have skyrocketed. To make matters worse, many employers failed to provide sufficient child care benefits during the pandemic, which only intensified the issue of child care as a barrier to working families and resulted in more child programs shutting down permanently. The industry has yet to recover to meet the demand for working families.

Second, the child care industry itself is facing one of the largest staffing shortages to date. Child care teachers have historically low wages, so low that many in the field qualify for public assistance themselves, and experienced major layoffs at the start of the pandemic. Many qualified employees found other jobs, and knowing how challenging and undervalued the profession is, have not returned and may have no plans ever to return. Programs are left scrambling to find new teachers who have the requisite certifications, skills, and background clearance to care for young children.

Without child care programs returning to their pre-pandemic occupancy, none of these other industries will be able to recover as fully as they would if child care were available and affordable for their future employees.

As LegUp talks to partners and advocates across the country, we are encouraged by the innovation, collaboration, and tireless work in communities nationwide to advance our field. Each month, we'll be taking a moment to highlight some of those efforts and encourage you to learn from others’ success. 

Staffing shortages continue to impact every community. That’s why we’re excited to highlight the work of The Care Institute (TCI), a national nonprofit focused on attracting and creating economic growth for a new generation of care workers. Along with partners across the Greater Boston area, including four large child care programs, local colleges, researchers, policymakers, philanthropy, and workforce training professionals, TCI began a pilot to address the staffing shortages in the community. Together, this group of diverse stakeholders is developing an innovative, employer-driven pilot program focused on streamlining the current system of early education training. The aim is to create a model for how to build a pipeline for recruitment, training, and employment in the early childhood sector that allows new providers to better enter the field and gain the expertise and training needed to succeed. The pilot resulted in successfully training and employing new early education teachers in the participating child care programs. TCI and its partners now plan to expand to three new pilots across Massachusetts to demonstrate the effectiveness of this solution. Learn more about TCI’s efforts here.

We are thrilled to announce that LegUp is partnering with New York Association for the Education of Young Children (NYAEYC) as they launch their new Shared Service Alliance, the NY Early Learning Alliance! Launching later this month, the NY Early Learning Alliance will accept their first cohort of child care programs from Buffalo, Chautauqua County, and the Capital District with business coaching, LegUp’s Enrollment Success Platform, Early Learning Ventures' child care management system, and an ongoing peer learning network. Learn more about the NY Early Learning Alliance and other great work NYAEYC is doing here.

A Note from Jessica Eggert, CEO of LegUp

As child care advocates, there’s one thing we can all agree on: The child care industry has some major challenges to overcome. But what’s missing from the public dialogue is the importance of Enrollment Success for providers, families, employers, and advocates alike. What do we mean by Enrollment Success? 

  • For providers, Enrollment Success starts with a simpler enrollment process. A streamlined enrollment process means that programs stay full and providers can focus on quality care and education rather than administrative tasks. 

  • For families, Enrollment Success means the experience of finding child care should be easy, transparent, and reliable.

  • For employers, Enrollment Success means they can recruit and retain skilled workers without worrying about child care breakdowns impacting business.

  • For partners, Enrollment Success is a stabilized child care system because programs are staying full. 

The overall budgeted occupancy rate of programs using LegUp is 89.8 percent—higher than the national average—proving that using LegUp translates to nearly full or full programs. Although staffing shortages won’t be solved overnight, LegUp’s Enrollment Success Platform is crucial for programs to continue to function, and serves as an immediate solution with long-term benefits.

Enrollment Success leads to a world where providers have the resources and technology they need to keep their seats full and focus on what matters most. At the same time, giving families equal access to information needed to access and afford quality care. As we work to bring Enrollment Success to every community impacted by child care through our collaborative partnerships and tools, we’re creating a world where providers can thrive, parents can pursue their career and family goals, and employers can maintain a strong, diverse, and skilled workforce. That’s why LegUp is committed to Enrollment Success, because we believe that child care enrollment is a crucial piece to the puzzle of our economic recovery 

As our collaborations continue and we grow across the country, we are encouraged and amazed by all the ways that providers persevere through constant challenges thrown their way, how employers are stepping up to support employees and their local child care communities, and how partners are using their investments and data to create stronger foundations for the industry.