Childcare has become an increasingly urgent need in and around Emporia, and a new study by Child Care Aware of Kansas and the Kansas Department for Children and Families demonstrates a shortage now in place statewide.
The study says Lyon County needs as many as 766 more childcare slots — or about a third of the county’s number of residents under age 6 — to meet the existing and potential demand. Since 2020, the number of childcare centers has dipped from eight to seven, while the number of school-age programs has increased from four to five. However, the number of license family or group childcare homes has dropped from 52 to 39.
Statewide, Child Care Aware says over 5,000 childcare slots have disappeared since 2017. Nearly 80 percent of Kansas counties, including all area counties, have at least 10 children under age 3 that are competing for every childcare space available — and in Coffey County’s case, the number is at least 40 children competing for one spot. Fifteen percent of childcare facilities have no slots for babies and toddlers. Other sobering stats:
*Nearly 90 percent of family childcare providers work more than 50 hours per week
*The average annual income of childcare providers was $20,650 as of March 2020
*Nearly half of the state’s family childcare providers are over the age of 50.
Child Care Aware says the state must invest in a “more effective early care and education system,” likening it to state investments in roads, utilities and broadband.