Closing The Gap

States have largely reopened child care, but only 47% of children have returned so far

Pornpak Khunatorn

Since the coronavirus pandemic started in March, 61% of child-care centers temporarily shut down and only about 46% of those facilities have reopened as of June 22, even though the vast majority of states have allowed providers to reopen.

That's according to data released Thursday from Procare Solutions, which provides child-care management software to approximately 30,000 child-care centers, preschools, day cares, after-school programs and camp clients nationwide. Using data from the majority of its clients, Procare tracked how close child-care providers are to getting back to normal attendance. As of last week, child-care centers nationwide are only operating at 47% of their full capacity.

Procare's data is based on child-care centers that use the company's management software and is not necessarily a statistical representation of the entire industry. It also does not include providers such as nannies, or facilities that serve fewer than 16 children. 

Child-care centers serviced by Procare suffered an 87% drop in attendance as the coronavirus prompted many states to issue stay-at-home orders and shut down facilities. But attendance is rebounding and is up by 250% from its low point in early April.

The resurgence in attendance levels isn't happening equally in all states. California still has the lowest rate of attendance compared to its normal activity and Massachusetts has not yet fully reopened child-care services. Providers in Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah were affected the least and were also states that saw the quickest rebound, Procare finds. 

There are a number of factors, beyond the coronavirus, that may also affect attendance rates, JoAnn Kintzel, CEO of Procare Solutions, tells CNBC Make It. One worth noting is family vacations. Typically in June and July, child-care providers will see seasonal declines in attendance because of families taking summer trips. But in the midst of the pandemic, it's tough to tell if that is still happening and how much of the current low attendance could be attributed to it, Kintzel says.

Additionally, a small portion of the low attendance can likely be attributed to providers having to shut down temporarily to undergo deep sanitation if a child or family attending the center contracts the virus. "We know that we're going to be seeing some close down for three to four days to do the deep cleaning, and that's going to have some impact on attendance," Kintzel says. 

Yet while most states have shown a steady increase in attendance, in recent weeks child-care centers in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho have actually experienced drops in attendance. 

"It does not surprise me that we're seeing slight declines in attendance," Kintzel says. "We know that there will be [coronavirus] hot spots," she says. That will affect parents' comfort around sending their kids to back day care, preschool and child-care centers.

As the country changes coming out of this pandemic and companies get more comfortable with work from home situations, child care is going to have to react in support of what happens with the workforce, Kintzel says.

Don't miss more in this series: 

Here's how child-care facilities could reopen safely
Here's how child-care facilities could reopen safely