Parents are anxiously trying to figure out what to do about childcare this fall as the economy slowly reopens and schools shift to being exclusively online. Many working families can’t afford to stay home with their children while schools are closed, but without adequate childcare options, they’ll have few choices and will be forced to make hard decisions.
Childcare in Kentucky was already struggling because of years of under-funding that forced many centers to permanently close. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified this crisis. After the three-month economic shut-down that began in April, only 1,743 childcare centers remain across the state, and 328 of those are labeled as “temporarily closed” because they have yet to reopen. Many are expected to permanently close in the coming months due to low enrollment.
Eastern Kentucky is particularly hard-hit.
According to a recent Prichard Committee report, significant portions of the region have no access to child care centers of any kind. One county doesn’t have any centers at all, and many have less than five.
We cannot rebuild Eastern Kentucky’s economy without high-quality, affordable and easily accessible childcare. Our economy will keep struggling, and our families will continue to suffer making hard decisions between work and caring for their children. The future of our region is quite literally in the balance.
Over the next few months, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky and the Mountain Association will bring you information from child care experts about the lack of access to childcare in Eastern Kentucky and potential solutions to this crisis. We hope highlighting this problem will spur our leaders to action that will fix it. We also hope it can foster creative solutions that will ensure our children are cared for and our people can safely return to work.
First, we will start with an overview of this issue at the present moment.
In the coming weeks, follow our social media or continue to check this site to follow along with the Childcare in Kentucky: Why It Matters series.