Vermonters have fewer options for child care placements, and those placements are increasingly likely to be at a center rather than in someone's home.
That's according to a new report on Vermont's child care capacity written by Stephanie Barrett and Chloe Wexler of the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office at the request of the Legislature.
The report provides detailed information about how Vermont's child care landscape has shifted since December 2015, including information on each county in the state.
Vermont lost 7 percent of regulated child care slots in three years.
Vermont had 22,294 child care slots at regulated child care centers and homes in June — 1,693 fewer slots than were available in December 2015. The decline includes reductions in each age group:
Overall, this represents a 7 percent decline in Vermont's regulated child care capacity.
This comes as Vermont's population of young children is also declining: The population of children under five years old shrank by about 2.3 percent from 2011-2016, according to the most recent statistics from the Vermont Department of Health.
Fewer Vermonters are offering child care in their homes
The biggest reason for the decline in Vermont's child care capacity is that there aren't as many home-based child care programs.
More than 200 home-based child care programs have closed and not been replaced since December 2015, meaning that the state has lost about 26 percent of child care slots at registered homes. (The overall number of slots at centers and school-based programs, meanwhile, has increased slightly.)
The report suggests a number of reasons for the losses in home-based child care, including economics, negative perceptions about the career, and perceptions of more onerous state regulations.
Grand Isle, Essex Counties saw biggest declines
The child care picture looks different in each Vermont county. The two areas hit hardest by child care closures are Grand Isle County and Essex County, according to the new report.
Grand Isle County and Essex County each lost nearly one quarter of their child care slots since December 2015. Grand Isle County lost half of its home-based providers.
The two counties are coincidentally experiencing Vermont's highest growth in the number of young children. From 2011 to 2016, Essex County's population under five years old grew 12.7 percent, while Grand Isle County's young child population grew 4.8 percent, according to the report.
Does Vermont have a child care shortage? Survey could provide some answers.
Child care providers and parents describe long wait lists, and advocacy groups have done their own work to estimate how many Vermont kids lack access to high-quality child care.
But estimating Vermont's need for child care depends on understanding each family's preferences.
Some Vermont kids may not need regulated child care because a parent or other family member takes care of them, or because their families have arranged child care with someone who is not a licensed child care provider.
Lawmakers ordered a survey of Vermont families to learn more about their child care preferences. The results are due by mid-January.
Contact April McCullum at 802-660-1863 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @April_McCullum.