Montana parents have serious trouble finding and affording high-quality childcare.
Access to stable, high-quality early care and education is crucial to ensure children develop on track and are prepared for school and life success. Yet one in three working families is struggling to find childcare, and even when care is available, it’s often unaffordable.
The current supply of licensed childcare does not meet the demand. In 2020, there was one licensed childcare slot in Montana for every three children under age 6.
Childcare gaps affect both rural and metropolitan communities. The Bipartisan Policy Center found that the childcare gaps in rural areas exceeded supply by 35 percent, as compared to 29 percent in metropolitan areas.
When parents and caregivers can’t find care, it impacts business and the economy:
- Employers nationwide lose $4.4 billion each year due to employee absences or loss of productivity related to childcare issues.
- Millions of workers—most of whom are women—have left the workforce because of care needs. This contributes to ongoing workforce shortages and slows economic growth.
- In a January 2022 Census survey, one in four parents and caregivers of children five and under say they’ve had to cut work hours, taken unpaid leave, left a job or held off a job search because of childcare.
- College students who are parents are 10 times less likely to finish a bachelor’s degree within five years. Degrees and professional certificates can increase prospects for more employment opportunities.
This section covers childcare policies and practices that support employees; outlines how each can be structured; notes best practices where they exist; and explores some of the new approaches that are happening across the country.