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New Pilot Program Aims to Address Child Care Provider Shortage

Child Poverty
Susan Montoya Bryan/AP
This May 4, 2021 image shows teacher Graciela Olague-Barrios working with two infants at Cuidando Los Ninos in Albuquerque, N.M. The charity provides housing, child care and financial counseling for mothers, all of whom will benefit from expanded Child Tax Credit payments that will start flowing in July to roughly 39 million households. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Child care providers are important for families of infants, toddlers and young children.

Registered homes and licensed centers not only give working parents peace of mind that their child being taken care of during the day, but it also helps with a child's development.

For Barbara DeBaryshe, interim director of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa's Center on the Family, registered child care homes are the unsung heroes of the child care workforce.

"What do they offer? Intimacy. It's a small group, mixed age environment in a person's home. So it's a much more home-like setting," said DeBaryshe.

"The family child care provider typically offers a remarkable degree of continuity of care. So you might stay with the same provider from when your child has a baby, even all the way up until they go to kindergarten."

DeBaryshe says home providers not only give children the continuity of care that they would need at a young age, but they can also meet family needs — such as cost, cultural practices and flexible availability.

"If you don't have a family member or personal babysitter, and you need an evening or weekend, a small portion of family child care homes offer those non-traditional hours."

According to DeBaryshe, there has always been high demand for child care in the islands — especially for infants and toddlers.

According to a 2017 study from the Center on the Family, 64% of children of working parents needed child care. But providers could serve 25% of those children.

For some, there is concern the pandemic has made that shortage worse.

"There were definitely providers that shut down temporarily," said DeBaryshe. "There were definitely providers that reduced the number of kids they could serve. All providers, and then I'm sure it's worse if you're at home, the increased need for physical separation, for extra sanitation."

While there isn't data available to confirm the true impact of the pandemic on child care providers, DeBaryshe says it is safe to assume the provider shortage persists in the state.

According to the state Department of Human Services, there are 822 licensed and registered family child care home and center-based providers in the islands.

But a pilot program at Windward Community College aims to raise that number.

"Child care is essential for working families," said program coordinator Cassia Simms. "It's a need, it's something we have to have, and working families are essential for the security of Hawaiʻi."

The Family Child Care Essentials program is a free online certificate that helps those interested in starting a child care business get started. It is funded by grants from the Hawaiʻi Resilience Fund and the Omidyar ʻOhana Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation.

Simms says the program not only aims to increase the number of licensed/registered providers, but also help with the state's economic recovery.

"The target is to help businesses open to meet that need," said Simms. "Part of the challenge for family child care homes, when they do open for business, is that they don't necessarily understand business practices."

The program teaches business management, accounting, marketing, and working with parents and children.

"It's specifically to help family child care businesses become licensed, help them set up their environment, and manage a successful child care business."

Simms says the program is open to anyone, as long as they meet state requirements to become a licensed provider. She says the program is also open to those who recently opened a child care business, or is in the process of opening one.

More information can be found at

Note: Hawaiʻi Community Foundation is an underwriter of Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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