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Daycare Deserts: Oklahoma parents struggling to find childcare

Posted at 4:53 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 10:00:03-04

TULSA, Okla. — It’s an all too common problem here in Oklahoma — parents that can’t find childcare.

Oklahoma has what are considered childcare deserts in which a county doesn’t have enough licensed childcare facilities for working families. A recent survey found more than half of Oklahomans live in one of these deserts.

Aunt Jackie’s Childcare Home sits in a daycare desert in north Tulsa. Owner, Jackie Evans has been in the daycare business for 42 years.

“I fell in love with the children and saw a need in my community to help mothers and fathers become better parents,” Evans says.

As a daycare provider, Jackie has a front-row seat to the struggles many parents face in finding childcare.

"It's very difficult for them, especially the infants. There's not a lot of slots for infants in our community,” she says.

Along with the lack of available slots is the cost.

"For a facility like mine, infants are $200 a week and for [ages] 2-4 it's basically $180. Most of my children are from single-parent homes."

There are 12 children at Aunt Jackie’s Childcare Home and the children range in age from 3 months to 4 years. Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services is currently working with the Center for American Progress to get a more accurate picture of childcare deserts in Oklahoma.

Current data from 2019 shows that 55% of the state’s population lived in a childcare desert at that time.

“As we look at Tulsa, you might recognize that there are family care homes and family childcare centers as you turn every corner, but when you think about working parents and the number of children that they have, we need more space for those children to go too,” says Brittany Lee, Director of Childcare Services.

For families needing support, OK-DHS has an application for a childcare subsidy. In addition, there will soon be money available for those looking to start their own childcare facility.

“OKDHS will be starting up a childcare desert startup grant. With that startup grant, we are going to provide funding and startup capital for people to go into those deserts and those spaces and open and provide childcare,” Lee said.

Back at Aunt Jackie’s, magnetic blocks, books and imaginative play keep the children entertained until mom, dad or their caregiver can take them home.

“My philosophy is daycare is my business, but my passion is these children," Evans said. "That works for me and that's why I've been successful in what I do."

OK-DHS anticipates launching the Childcare Desert startup grant this month. Find more information on the startup grant here.

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