Market Insights Vol. 4: How Staffing Shortages Could Affect Supply

We take deeper look at supply data and the implications of staffing shortages, announcing a new partnership in Colorado, and more.

Welcome to the August 2021 edition of the Market Insights Report! This month, we're diving deep into supply data and the indicators that give us the most accurate understanding of available supply. Plus our latest partnership announcement in Colorado and an interview with Early Learning Ventures!

How we measure supply has major implications on the child care field.

Recently we’ve shared data on the impact that staffing shortages are having on families not getting the care they need and seats staying unfilled. We also know that staffing shortages are most significantly impacting care for infants and toddlers due to the low staff-to-child ratios required for quality care.

And while this data helps point to staff shortage effects on supply across the country, the child care field has not had other indicators that demonstrate just how staffing shortages impact actual supply.

But one of the biggest gaps that remains in the data that states and communities have is program occupancy, and how licensed capacity differs from actual budgeted occupancy.

Yet, this data is arguably some of the most vital to demonstrate where the current supply actually is and how significantly staffing shortages translate to decreased supply. Right now advocates and agencies are forced to rely on anecdotes of providers cobbling together solutions—which is happening all over—without substantial data to support these stories or to show policymakers.

LegUp is filling this gap in the work we do with our partners and the data we provide, by comparing budgeted occupancy versus licensed occupancy. Partners can then see exactly how staffing shortages are impacting their community’s supply of care, by age group.

Budgeted occupancy is a better indicator of supply because Directors and owners say exactly how many children they can accept per classroom due to their staff capacity in order to maintain the required staff-to-child ratios for quality care.

In full disclosure, we acknowledge that programs powered by LegUp are already at a greater capacity than the national average. Nevertheless, we compared nationwide budgeted occupancy to Washington providers using our Enrollment Success Platform. Interestingly, Washington providers had the lowest occupancy rate for children 12-24 months. One theory to explain this could be that available staff are working in the infant classrooms more than the toddler/waddler classrooms since infant classrooms are nearly completely full (only 2.5% of open seats for Washington programs is for 0-12 month care) and demand for care for that age group has remained high over the past few months.

We will continue to watch how budgeted occupancy changes over the course of the year and we hope that states and communities will take time to reflect on how budgeted occupancy rates are a better indicator of true supply than licensed occupancy.

“The data we’re using to make decisions about how federal and state dollars are spent and where new investments are made, they really impact providers’ livelihoods, families’ access to care and their ability to stay in the workforce, and children’s wellbeing and development.”

Last week, LegUp’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Julia Barfield, was featured on the latest episode of Early Learning Ventures’ What’s Up Wednesday series. She shared about our Enrollment Success Platform, how states and communities should be thinking about the value of real-time data in the field, and how LegUp supports providers and partners across the country. Check out the full conversation here.

We’re excited to announce our latest partnership with Early Childhood Options (ECO) of Summit County, Colorado. As a Shared Service Alliance and CCR&R, ECO aims to strengthen child care businesses in their county and help families find and access care. With such high demand but such low supply, Summit County providers are working hard to shrink their long waitlists, but families still cannot find care fast enough. Stay tuned to learn more about the important steps that ECO is making to improve the search for care for families and minimize the administrative tasks for providers across Summit County.

Summer has flown by (is it just me?), but we’re encouraged to see what valuable work our partners are doing during what is normally seen as a slower period. Last week, our Director of Strategic Partnerships, Julia Barfield, had the opportunity to join our partner, Early Learning Ventures, to share how the data our partners receive from LegUp’s Enrollment Success Platform is leading them toward more strategic investments and justifying/informing their own expansion. One of the most important takeaways from this interview is that we want states and communities to reflect on what data they are using to make important decisions about how to spend funds from the American Rescue Plan that they have received. The current supply data most states have either is outdated, time-consuming for their staff to collect, or inaccurate. And these decisions greatly affect providers’ livelihoods, families’ abilities to stay in the workforce, and children’s access to quality care. We want to ensure that every partner and decision-maker has the data they need to make such important decisions. 

Do you and your team need real-time supply and demand data to better support your community? Or are you reading this newsletter and want to learn more about what we’re doing? Drop us a note—we’d love to hear from you!