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Understanding Infant and Toddler Care in Philadelphia: Capacity, Shortages, and Barriers

In 2019, with support of Vanguard’s Strong Start for Kids program, Reinvestment Fund conducted a first of its kind analysis of the supply and demand for childcare for children under three years old in Philadelphia. This report updates that analysis and includes additional information on early childhood education (ECE) providers offering care during non-traditional hours and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data for this report is from the summer of 2021 and reflects a difficult time for the childcare sector. Vaccines were available for adults, but the emerging sense of optimism diminished as the Delta variant created a new wave of uncertainty. Survey responses describe providers facing familiar challenges like finding and retaining qualified staff and wrestling with new ones like declines in enrollments and increased costs for pandemic related supplies and services. Major findings include:

  • Most providers serve infants and toddlers, but enrollment has declined dramatically. The decline in enrollment was not limited to infants and toddlers, providers are enrolling fewer children of all ages compared with 2019.  Eighty percent of survey respondents indicated a decline in enrollment from before the pandemic; the median number of children of any age enrolled in center based programs fell from 50 in 2019 to just 23 children in 2021.
  • Finding and retaining qualified staff and insufficient reimbursement rates continue to be the biggest challenges to serving infants and toddlers. All providers, whether currently serving infants and toddlers or not, cited help finding qualified staff and higher reimbursement rates as the two most important supports required to continue or begin serving children under three.
  • Half of ECE providers offered nontraditional hours, defined as care before 7am, after 6pm or on the weekends. This is a sharp increase from our 2019 survey when 20% of ECE providers did so. Non-traditional hours were more common among home-based providers (70%) than center-based (60%).


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