A recent survey by PATCH (People Attentive to Children), a non-profit organization that helps parents find quality, affordable childcare and trains professionals in early education and childcare, found that of 1,467 Hawaii residents, 80% of parents looking for childcare referrals needed infant or toddler care, but often (30%) were “not able to find any providers with infant openings.”
Supply simply does not meet demand, according to PATCH Executive Director, Katy Chen, who says that Hawaii has faced this problem for years, forcing parents to find childcare places that are not licensed and hence unregulated and potentially unsafe.
“There has not been a notable increase in birth rates in Hawaii over the last couple of decades, but the percentage of working mothers in Hawaii has increased by 50% over the last 30 years, thus requiring a higher demand for childcare,” Chen says.
Nearly 10,000 parents contact PATCH each year looking for childcare, a majority looking for care for their babies in a home daycare setting, according to Chen. “We only refer parents to places that are licensed by the Department of Human Services,” she explains. Because infants require special care, there are stricter limits on how many children under 18 months can be in a daycare. “Less spots for babies means parents struggle even more to find a suitable vacancy.”
After analyzing the survey results, PATCH has developed the Enhanced Referral Service, which allows parents to select the location and childcare criteria they are looking for, then PATCH generates a list of childcare providers who can meet their needs and contacts them to find openings. This is the only service of its kind in the state, and could prove essential since Hawaii has more two-career families than anywhere else in the nation.
In addition, PATCH is currently participating in a pilot focused on a quality rating system for Hawaii childcare providers, the goal being to support them in improving the quality of their care. PATCH does recruit, train and support people to become licensed daycare providers, currently offering over 500 free trainings for parents and childcare providers each year, as well as scholarships and career development assistance for early childhood education professionals.