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Taking Baby Steps To Expand Care For Infants And Toddlers

Article from Child Care Aware of Kansas - July 19, 2023

Access to Child Care

Access to child care for infants is often overshadowed by the larger issue of access to child care for all children. However, there are a number of structural factors that impact the availability of infant care, particularly for family child care programs. These include the structure of licensed capacity and caregiver-to-child ratios for child care programs, and the ability of child care providers to command competitive fees for children at different ages.

Caring for Infants is Costly As small business owners, family child care providers are generally less likely to accept infants because doing so reduces the amount of revenue that they’re able to generate. For family child care providers, this means less income for their own families. Family child care providers stand to generate the greatest revenue when they fill available spaces with older children, because caring for infants is costly and reduces the total number of children a provider can serve. At first glance, the solution may seem to involve either passing increased costs off to families or changing the ratio of staff to children. Yet neither of those options are true solutions. Families simply cannot afford to pay more for child care, and compromising the health and safety of our youngest, most vulnerable Kansans is simply unacceptable.

A Livable Solution Child Care Aware of Kansas is exploring a third option: providing a financial incentive to increase the likelihood that a family child care provider will accept an additional infant. Launching in spring 2023, Baby Steps is an innovative pilot that seeks not only to offset the revenue lost by caring for infants and toddlers, but also to bring family child care providers’ incomes closer to what might be considered a “livable” wage.

The Baby Steps pilot project will serve 53 family child care programs in 20 Kansas counties that meet the following criteria:

  • Total population of less than 50,000 residents

  • High Social Vulnerability Index score from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The extent that desired capacity meets potential child care demand is low

  • High number of children under age three per child care slot

  • High birth rate per 1,000 population

In addition to the financial incentive, participating child care programs will also receive support from Kansas’ Infant Toddler Specialist Network and other programs and services aimed at improving the quality of care for young children.

Baby Steps is made possible by generous support from The Patterson Family Foundation, with evaluation and technical assistance provided by The University of Kansas – Center for Public Partnerships and Research.

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