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Despite dwindling funding, Utah childcare resources available for parents

Posted at 5:37 PM, May 30, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — The cost of childcare continues to go up putting working parents in a real bind. The accessibility to daycare options is also a problem for many areas with few options.

But there are some programs out there to help, many that are unknown to those who need them.

Moe Hickey is executive director for the nonprofit childcare advocacy group Voices for Utah Children.

"It's a challenge on the Wasatch front, but in our rural communities it really is a challenge," said Moe Hickey, executive director for Voices for Utah Children. "It's one of the biggest socio-economic issues we're facing."

He pointed out the issue in areas like Carbon County, where daycare centers are sometimes more than 30 miles apart.

At the last legislative session, Hickey and other childcare advocates pushed for more state funding as millions in federal money set aside for childcare during the pandemic has now expired. They did not get what they asked for, but some resources are available to parents and providers.

Kara Jensen runs Owl's Nest daycare in Centerfield, a small town in Sanpete County. She received a very large delivery Wednesday thanks to a state-funded grant she applied for through the Department of Workforce Services.

"It's so humbling. I mean it would have taken me years and years and years to fill this building, I mean I don't know if I'm allowed to actually say how much this is but it was a lot, way more than I could ever afford," she said.

Filling a growing need in this valley, Jensen expanded her business last year and built a nearly 7,000-square-foot facility on the family farm.

Jensen operated an in-home daycare for the past 10 years, but had a two-year waitlist for new customers, and opened a much larger center to accommodate the growing demand in this area.

"It's good to see programs like hers expand offering more working parents more options," said Hickey. "We have childcare deserts across the state."

Jensen encourages other smaller daycare providers to look into resources that may help them expand and for parents to see what's available to them, as well.

"Find the grants because they are so worth it," said Jensen. "So worth it!"

Utahns can go to the Office of Child Care website here to learn more, or contact Hickey directly for help at moe@utahchildren.org.

"We're going to have to do it consistently, across the state, but really looking at the need in the individual communities, seeing how we can address that and you know, money doesn't always fix everything, but in this case, it's needed," said Hickey.