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Western partners with the United Way to study childcare needs in Whatcom County

United Way of Whatcom County is partnering with Western Washington University's Center for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) to conduct a local child care demand study that will inform a community-wide effort to increase access to affordable high-quality childcare and early learning options in our community.

The assessment work is part of a collaborative effort to address the burgeoning child care crisis in Whatcom County.

A lack of affordable, quality child care is affecting families, care providers, employers, and the local economy. In 2019, Whatcom County had a shortfall of 1,910 child care spots. When child care is available, the high cost of care makes it out of reach for many working parents. Recent data from United Way’s ALICE Report revealed that for families with young children, child care is the highest single expense in the family budget, beating out housing, food, healthcare, technology, and other key categories. Full time, infant child care has a median annual cost of $10,920, more than the combined cost of tuition, books, and fees at Western.

Having secured grant funding from the Washington State Department of Commerce, United Way of Whatcom County has hired CEBR to conduct a county-wide survey to assess current child care needs, preferences, and availability. The data collected from this effort will inform an overall plan that will be made in collaboration with others, to expand local child care resources in a way that benefits children, families, and child care providers in our community.

“This is a really exciting collaboration and a great step toward developing child care sustainability in Whatcom County,” said Cezar Mesquita, director of Admissions at Western Washington University. “As a United Way Board member, I’m well aware of how United Way funding provides help for families who struggle financially in our community. We know that child care can be a significant factor in being able to achieve financial stability, and we want to make sure local kids and families get the support they need. Western’s Center for Economic and Business Research is going to provide crucial information to help us reshape the child care landscape to better fit our community’s needs.”

The data from this survey will be instrumental to informing solutions. All local families with children who live or work in Whatcom County are encouraged to take the survey here:

United Way’s Commerce Department grant funding is also being used to form the Whatcom Child Care Coalition (WCCC), a collaborative group of child-focused entities and funders who will create a plan to expand child care availability, increase the affordability of care, and bolster the financial health of local child care providers and working families.

United Way of Whatcom County works with local nonprofits, businesses, and community members to support basic needs, increase economic mobility, and help break the cycle of poverty in Whatcom County. Their goal is to enable financial stability for every person and family in our community.

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Monday, March 1, 2021 - 11:13am