BALTIMORE — Maryland researchers have identified areas in the state where childcare providers are scarce using new computer software.
These areas are known as “childcare deserts” because there are “not enough childcare programs in a community to meet the needs of the children who live in that community,” communications director Doug Lent said.
They are defined by the greater than 3:1 ratio of children to child care providers.
And they are prominent in three Maryland counties: Garrett, Cecil, and Somerset.
The reason so few childcare providers exist is because the pay for childcare is low, and economic pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic likely led to a reduction in providers, Lent said.
“They historically have operated on razor-thin margins,” he said. “They are paid very, very little.”
The absence of child providers can have a severe impact on children and their families, especially since the first five years of a child’s life is vital for social and cognitive development, Lent said.
When children have access to childcare programs, they are prepared for their first few years of school and they are more likely to graduate from high school, he said.
Some parents who live outside of Baltimore City say that they have struggled to find care for their children so that they can go to work.
Latajia Chamberlayne said she had to find childcare near her job so that she could return to the office.
“I was taking her before, in the city,” Chamberlayne said. “I worked in Pikesville and I live in Owings Mills, so that was a real bad commute in the mornings. I found her a daycare that’s in my area and not far from my job. So, I’m glad that I was able to find something as quickly as I did.”
Maryland and Family Network and Upfront, a software company that validates and provides access to childcare data, has developed an interactive mapping tool to track the availability of childcare throughout the state.
The company aims to direct lawmakers to areas where investment in early child care is needed.