Child Care Supply and Demand in Kansas: What to Know and How to Be Part of the Solution

The Ideas & Solutions blog is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of child care and early education issues and ideas. We hope to provoke thoughtful discussions within the field and to help those outside the field gain a better understanding of priorities and concerns.

Child Care Supply and Demand in Kansas: What to Know and How to Be Part of the Solution

A child’s earliest experiences lay the foundation for lifelong learning, well-being, and success. Quality early care and education opportunities provide the nurturing environments and relationships children need for healthy development from the start, while enabling parents and caregivers to be productive members of the workforce. When the supply of child care isn’t adequate, however, the ability to choose the type of child care that best meets family and child needs and preferences falls out of reach.

Understanding Supply and Demand

Child Care Aware of Kansas, in partnership with the Department for Children and Families, regularly collects information about the number of child care programs operating in the state, including both the total number of children a program is licensed to serve (licensed capacity) and the total number of children a program desires to serve (desired capacity). This is an important distinction; not all child care providers choose to care for the maximum number of children allowable under their license. Focusing on desired capacity gives us the ability to more accurately represent the amount of additional child care required to meet the needs of young children, their families, and the communities they live in.

What Has Changed?

This year’s Child Care Supply Demand report, “Know Better, Do Better: Lessons in Recovery from COVID-19,” highlights changes in the availability of child care from 2019 through 2021, allowing us to better understand the impact of both COVID-19 as well as strategic relief efforts targeted to families and child care providers.

Between 2019 and May of 2021, Kansas lost 78 total child care providers and 938 total child care slots from the total desired capacity of all programs in the state. In 2020, Kansas child care licensing renewal dates were extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When this extension ended in June of 2021, many programs closed because they did not renew their licenses by the new deadline. From June through August of 2021, Kansas lost 279 more child care programs. Family Child Care Homes saw the steepest decline in supply overall, with a total decrease of 115 programs.

At the same time, our child care system experienced an unprecedented investment of funds aimed at stabilizing existing child care programs and addressing health and safety needs. Neary $100 million in relief funding was distributed to Kansas child care providers in 2021. Preliminary data suggest that this funding has been successful, with 98% of the child care programs that received the second round of stabilization grants still in operation today. 

Why It Matters

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the painful economic and career choices parents must make to care for their kids, sometimes forcing them to leave the workforce, reduce hours, change careers, move from rural areas, or endure significant stress that can impact their health and their child’s development.

Even as many children return to out of home child care arrangements and parents return to work, many households still struggle with the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic. Parents still navigate sudden closures from infections and exposures, sacrificing valuable work hours or being forced to work from home and care for children. From June 9th to July 5th, 2021, 11% of households with children age birth to 17 reported that at least one child wasn’t able to attend their child care arrangement at some point because of COVID-19. To ensure children were cared for, 28% of these households said they used vacation, sick days, or other paid leave, 32% said they cut work hours, and 28% said they supervised their children while working.

Meanwhile, finding any child care arrangement has become more difficult, with the overall supply of child care (desired capacity) only meeting 49% of the potential demand – down from 54% in 2019. When parents and caregivers can’t find child care, “family choice” becomes a matter of whether to leave the workforce or not (and not about what type of child care may best meet a family’s needs and preferences).

Be Part of the Solution

You may have already experienced or heard about the impact child care challenges are having on Kansas kids, families, businesses, and communities. Developing a stronger early care and education system can be complex, and you might not feel like the best person to contribute to this work.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. Many small-scale solutions have already worked in other places – both inside and outside Kansas – and the families and child care providers in your community know what they need. You can join the conversation in your community in the following ways:

We can’t provide step-by-step instructions for building a perfect child care system, because different solutions work for different communities and families. Instead, we aim to provide a space to imagine what a system can look like by amplifying community members’ voices, spotlighting diverse ideas, and highlighting the most effective approaches.

When we ensure all families have access to quality child care options - regardless of their income level or where they live – we build critical infrastructure necessary for our businesses to succeed, our communities to flourish, and our children to grow into happy, healthy, productive Kansans.

Read More

Child Care Aware of Kansas, in partnership with the Department for Children and Families, produces the Child Care Supply Demand Report annually. The 2021 report, “Know Better, Do Better: Lessons in Recovery from COVID-19” is available at

  • Child Care Aware of Kansas

    Child Care Aware of Kansas connects everyone with a stake in child care — parents, child care providers, businesses, local and state leaders, and community members — to the information and ideas they need to take action. We provide opportunities, connections, and support for Kansans to envision what a better child care system can look like for them. Working within a network of Child Care Resource & Referral agencies, we also connect caregivers and providers to the information and support they need.