Market Insights Vol 2: For Families, a Misalignment Between the Search for Care and Finding Care When They Need It

We'll look at preferred enrollment data, collaboration worth highlighting, and announcing a new partner.

Welcome to another edition of our Market Insights Report! This month our team took a look at when families are trying to enroll in care and how long they’ve been sitting on waitlists. We’re also announcing one of our newest partners, and featuring the amazing work of a coalition in Northeast Iowa.

But first, let’s dive into the data!

Families aren’t getting care when they need it.

We’re seeing enrollments increase in every market we’re in. But we’re also seeing the majority of families are not getting the specific care they need, when they need it.

Over the past 12 months as COVID restrictions have changed, lifted, and changed again, we’ve watched as families pushed back their preferred enrollment dates time after time. But in the past 60 days, we’ve seen the search for care spike. Unfortunately, due to staffing shortages and classroom planning, not nearly enough spots are opening up to support the growing demand.

We’re also seeing families start to plan ahead. If their preferred enrollment date has not already passed, 31.3% of expecting families are looking most for care in Q4 of this year. But in general, we know that many families stay on waitlists for over a year – oftentimes longer. And given the substantial staffing shortages nationwide, they still might not get into care even though they tried to plan ahead.

While waiting to enroll in care, parents are juggling alternative arrangements and finding temporary solutions. In many cases, those secondary options can be of lower quality, as many parents scramble to find care in a time crunch. Given the extremely low supply of infant/toddler care, it’s concerning that working parents are being forced to cobble together care arrangements during the most vital years of development for young children.

While our team works to help providers reduce revenue gaps so their doors stay open and connect families to available care, we look to our partners as they come up with innovative solutions to address staffing shortages for the sustainability of the industry.

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. 

The Black Hawk County Child Care Coalition was formed in 2017 and is a collaboration of nearly 40 individuals from the child care, nonprofit, education, and business sectors in Northeast Iowa. The group is focused on and researching how to address five key areas to help alleviate child care needs in Black Hawk County, Iowa.

After several years of hard work and planning, the coalition just announced the creation of the Cedar Valley Kids Child Care Center. Mary Janssen, Children and Family Services Director at Child Care Resource and Referral of Northeast Iowa shared, “We are excited to announce the first site of Cedar Valley Kids Child Care Center, this partnership is a one-of-a-kind where we bring businesses the opportunity to reserve spaces for quality affordable child care. We know this is the first of many sites and look forward to building more strong partnerships to grow and sustain our community!” Learn more about the announcement here.

We are thrilled to announce that we have been partnering with Early Learning Ventures for the past few months supporting Shared Service Alliances across the country! By integrating LegUp's Enrollment Success platform and their child care management system, Alliance CORE, together we're able to offer an end-to-end solution for both centers and family child care home enrollment and operations. Learn more about Early Learning Ventures' great work here

A Note from Jessica Eggert, CEO of LegUp

The search for child care as a parent can be an emotional rollercoaster. I’m feeling it again as I set out to search for much-needed care for my 21-month-old, while my husband and I both juggle rewarding, but intense, careers. 

There’s excitement for my daughter to make friends and start preparing for the journey to Kindergarten, but also nervousness about finding the right program, with teachers and staff that will care for my daughter like she’s their own. We’re also feeling the stress of knowing that no matter what our list of “must haves” are, it's unlikely that we’ll find exactly what we’re looking for, when we’re looking for it, due to staffing shortages, a loss of programs from the pandemic, and long waitlists.

But what we’ve learned at LegUp is that while staffing and capacity shortages aren’t easy fixes, waitlist lengths don’t have to be such a significant barrier for parents or providers. Waitlists are long because they're usually static lists, outdated within days, and just another time-consuming task for providers to weed through in search of a family who matches seat requirements and also happens to still be looking for care. By giving families an easy way to update their needs in the LegUp platform as work schedules and preferred enrollment dates change, providers can reduce their revenue gaps, families can move through waitlists faster, and both LegUp and our partners can better anticipate demand and corresponding supply needs.

As a company, LegUp will be watching these demand shifts in our current markets, and are looking forward to seeing how our partners use this data to support their communities. As a working mom, I’m looking forward to the day that LegUp is supporting providers across the country and alleviating the waitlist burden for millions of families like mine trying to find the right care, at the right time.

Jessica Eggert
CEO of LegUp