MISSOULA - Quality, affordable childcare has been a longstanding issue in Montana, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the pandemic highlighted just how important childcare is and the complex challenges the industry faces across the country.
According to Kids Count Montana, affordability is one of the biggest issues with childcare costing an average of between $8,400 and $9,500 a year.
An additional problem is that there are just not enough licensed childcare providers to meet demand. Kids Count Montana reports in 2020 there was only one licensed child care slot for every three children under the age of six.
Monday marked the national "Day Without Childcare Strike" with rallies held in Kalispell and Missoula. About a dozen parents and childcare providers gathered on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn Monday in solidarity.
Zero to Five Missoula County director Grace Decker says child care providers make between $9 and $12 an hour, noting the wage is not enough to support a family or provide high-quality care for kids. Decker added that for too long childcare providers have relied on parent tuition. But now they're calling on new investment on all levels.
“For too long childcare has relied on parents, tuition parent payments alone, and parents can't pay more. And childcare providers are at a breaking point," Decker told MTN News. And so, it's time for our government and our public institutions to come together and do the things that they are meant to do, which is to make sure that the economy can thrive, that parents can get to work and that young children have great places to spend their days.”
Join us at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on the KPAX Facebook page and the KPAX Streaming App for an MTN town hall event — Kids in Crisis. We want to hear what you think and have a conversation about what can be done to help our kids.