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Washington is facing a child care crisis. According to the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families, it’s estimated more than 600,000 Washington kids who need care because all available parents are working currently aren’t getting state licensed child care.


The cost of high-quality early learning and child care is simply too high and too hard to find. The median cost for child care has increased a staggering 74 percent in the last decade. Where affordable options exist, they are few and far between. Making the crisis worse, child care workers – nearly all of whom are women, and disproportionately women of color – are so underpaid that many rely on government assistance, and low wages lead to high staff turnover which further destabilizes the industry.


This isn’t just bad for kids and parents – it’s bad for our entire economy. When parents don’t have a reliable and affordable place to take their children while they work, they're forced to miss shifts and lose income, or leave the workforce altogether. In fact, 30 percent of parents report leaving the workforce because of lack of child care. With more parents pushed out of the workforce or earning less, that means fewer people with less money to spend in their local communities, and our entire economy suffers.


The good news is that Washington voters want lawmakers to act, and a majority of voters consider child care affordability and access a top or high priority when they go to vote this November.


This spring, a coalition of Children’s Campaign Fund Action, MomsRising and OneAmerica Votes conducted polling of Washington voters, which found that 70% approve of a new proposal to cap costs for families, create a living wage structure for workers, and fund training for child care providers to improve quality and safety. Further, 62% of voters – including a majority of independents – said they would be more likely to vote for candidates who support this proposal.


We, along with our partners, have made the findings from this poll available in a candidate training which we presented in early July to all interested candidates regardless of partisanship. In the presentation, candidates can find topline results from the poll, as well as helpful background on this issue and messaging guidance. Additionally, candidates can access our 2024 Child Care Candidate Toolkit here, which provides further talking points, useful statistics and facts on child care in Washington, as well as sample content for social media.


Finally, candidates who are willing to take our 2024 Child Care Candidate Pledge and commit to tackling this crisis should they be elected will receive additional pro-child care candidate content for their websites and social media pages.


We intend to put child care and early learning issues at the forefront of elections this year in every contest in Washington state. We look forward to that work ahead with our partners, and building a child care majority in Olympia that will deliver the solutions voters are calling for.


SEATTLE – Voters want to see lawmakers make significant new investments in addressing Washington’s child care crisis, and a majority are more likely to support legislative candidates in November who commit to supporting a new plan to make child care more affordable and accessible.


In polling released today sponsored by a coalition of Children’s Campaign Fund Action, MomsRising and OneAmerica Votes, 70% of Washington voters approve of a new proposal that would establish a cap on how much of a family’s income can go towards child care, increasing state subsidies, create a living wage structure with benefits for early education and child care providers, and create new state training programs for child care providers to improve quality and safety.


The proposal garners support across party lines – with a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents all in favor – as well as a majority of voters in every state media market. Additionally, 62% of Washington voters said they are more likely to vote for legislative candidates in November who support this proposal.


“Washington is facing a child care crisis – the cost of high-quality early learning and child care is simply too high and it’s too hard to find for many families.” said Lauren Hipp, national director for early learning and Washington state at MomsRising. “Our state recently made new investments in child care, but these are just a drop in the bucket and not enough to address our ongoing crisis. Voters are clear they want lawmakers to do more.”


According to the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families, it’s estimated more than 600,000 Washington kids who need care because all available parents are working currently aren’t getting state licensed child care. More data on Washington’s child care crisis is available in the handout here.


The child care crisis isn’t just bad for kids and families – it’s also a drag on Washington’s economy. When parents don’t have a reliable and affordable place to take their children while they work, they're forced to miss shifts and lose income, or leave the workforce altogether. In fact, 30 percent of parents report leaving the workforce because of lack of child care.


“Before becoming a mom, I had heard that child care was expensive and hard to find, but I was shocked that in my community it was nearly nonexistent,” said Capri Jackson, a mom and MomsRising member in Colville. “When I had my baby, I had to leave the workforce because of our state’s child care crisis. My employer lost a passionate and skilled employee. And without my income, my family can’t save as much money for our future or support our local small businesses as much as we did before.”


Washington’s child care shortage costs Washington’s economy an estimated $3.5 billion a year in lost wages, productivity and consumer spending.


Child care providers are also struggling and the entire industry suffers from high turnover as a result of low wages for child care providers. Child care workers – the vast majority of whom are women, and disproportionately women of color – are so underpaid, many have to rely on government assistance.


“I do this work because I want families to have the ability to work and thrive, and their children to have safe quality childcare full of love, but it’s a challenge to stay open, to provide enough spots for parents in our community, and to attract and retain qualified help when I need it,” said Maria de Carmen Muñoz, a child care provider in the Tri-Cities and a member of OneAmerica Votes. “But with the cost of child care already putting care out of reach for so many families, we can’t simply raise rates. We need help.”


The coalition isn’t waiting until January to begin work on passing a new child care agenda in Olympia. The polling shows 62% of Washington voters say that child care and early education is their top or a high priority when they go to vote.


“With this data, we intend to put child care and early learning issues at the forefront of elections this year in every contest in Washington state from legislative races to the governor’s race,” said Roxana Norouzi, CEO of OneAmerica Votes. “We look forward to that work ahead with our partners, and building a child care majority in Olympia that will deliver the solutions voters are calling for.”


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About Children’s Campaign Fund Action

Children’s Campaign Fund Action (CCFA) builds non-partisan political power through advocacy and education to enact transformational policy change for children, youth, and families. CCFA is the 501(c)(4) advocacy arm of the Children’s Campaign Fund, one of the nation’s longest-standing PACs focused on children’s issues. We envision a Washington where all lawmakers prioritize the health, well-being, safety, and learning and development of the children, youth, and families of Washington State, especially those who are under-resourced and marginalized. 


About OneAmerica Votes

OneAmerica Votes is a political and movement home to advance the lives and liberation of immigrant and refugee people. We are a 501(c)(4) advocacy and political organization that organizes and builds the leadership of immigrants and our allies in Washington state to break down systems that were built to exclude us and launch immigrants and people of color into public life. We strive to build a multiracial democracy that is people centered, works for us all and is reflective of our lived experiences and what we deserve to thrive.


About MomsRising

MomsRising.org is an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to increase family economic security, stop discrimination against women and moms, and build a nation where businesses and families can thrive. Established in 2006, MomsRising and its members are organizing and speaking out to improve public policy and to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America’s families, including criminal justice reform, immigration policy reform, and gun safety. MomsRising is working for paid family and medical leave, affordable, high quality child care and early learning, and for an end to the wage and hiring discrimination which penalizes women — particularly moms and women of color — and so many others. MomsRising advocates for access to healthy food for all kids, health care for all, earned sick days, and breastfeeding rights so that all children can have a healthy start. MomsRising maintains a Spanish language website: MamásConPoder.org.

Over the past two years, the Children's Campaign Fund Action and the Association of Washington Business Institute met with 54 legislators! These joint meetings focused on educating lawmakers on the importance of early learning.



In 2023, CCFA and AWBi developed a primer on child care (please click here to read our primer!). The primer includes information about the science behind early learning and brain development and current government funding and regulatory systems for child care. In 2024, CCFA and AWBi representatives also shared our Bus Tour Report.


We are looking forward to continuing our bipartisan education efforts with AWBi!

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