Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

child care

When parents are trying to get back to work after the pandemic, they may find it much harder to find a child care space.

Child-care costs: New report puts Washington state in top 10 least affordable

When median child-care costs are compared to median family incomes, our state, once again, does not come out looking very good.


We're in the top 10 (again).

But it's not a good top 10.

A new ranking of child-care costs lists Washington state among the top-1o least affordable in several categories.

The calculation, by the advocacy group Child Care Aware of America, compared median child-care costs to median family incomes and placed Washington as follows:

  • For infants: second least affordable for care in a family home child care; and sixth least affordable for infant care in a center.
  • For toddlers: fifth least affordable for care in a family home; ninth least affordable for a care center.
  • For a 4-year-old: Seventh least affordable for family home care and 10th least affordable for center care.

Go here to see the full report: “The U.S. and the High Price of Child Care, an Examination of a Broken System.” 

What does it all mean for families? A struggle to find child care, a long wait to get into a child care, paying a high proportion of their income for child care — or all of the above.

This is the seventh straight year Washington has landed on this dubious top-10 list, and advocates say more must be done.

“We have not invested in our child care system at a level sufficient to meet demand. Clearly more investment is needed at the state and federal levels, and from the business community,” Ryan Pricco, director of policy and advocacy at Child Care Aware of Washington, said in a news release about the new report.

Businesses lose more than $2 billion annually when employees miss work or quit because of child care problems or a lack of availability, according to a new report from the Child Care Collaborative Task Force, “The Mounting Costs of Child Care.”

Child Care Aware of Washington is a nonprofit dedicated to connecting families to local, high-quality, licensed child care and early learning programs; it also supports providers with professional development services and scholarships. Child Care Aware of Washington tracks child care supply, demand and costs statewide and in every county. You can dig into their data here.