Child care desert in Sweetwater County

SWEETWATER, Wyo. – Ratio of youth population to licensed care facilities classifies Wyoming’s Sweetwater County a kids’ services dry spot.

SweetwaterNOW reports there to be 3,000 children under five years old in Sweetwater County, while the total capacity of preschools and daycares licensed by the Wyoming Department of Family Services is less than 1,000, qualifing the county as a child care desert, defined as an area where child care is available to less than one out of every three children under age five.

A 2018 survey found that child care costs ranks as the biggest reason young adults are choosing to have fewer children. Nationally, access to child care is reshaping when and whether young people choose to start families. And effects are not limited to within the family residence.

Not being able to find or afford child care may keep parents out of the workforce or limit participation. Inversely, strong child-care availability creates mobility for families and is an important consideration in whether they choose to move to a community.

Sweetwater County’s present economy is particularly affected by the child care issue, with many parents working long hours in the energy industry or mining. That access can also be key to creating a community that’s competitive in attracting new talent as the economy shifts away from fossil-fuels.

In a SweetwaterNow conducted poll, respondents listed child care as either the 1st or 2nd-largest monthly expense. And just under one-third of those surveyed pay more for child care than housing.

SweetwaterNOW reports that while speaking with those polled one respondent said, “The assistance that I would receive from the state doesn’t even cover half of the cost of childcare, and I would only receive it if my children were cared for in a certified facility. Those daycares range from $1200-$1600 a month for my twins. My rent is $750.”

Adding to matters, almost two-thirds of persons polled said that the price of child care is keeping their family from getting where they want to be, specifically regarding formerly working parents who elect to remain in the home when faced with unavailable or un-affordable child care options.

According to SweetwaterNOW, if factoring at-home parents, babysitting or assistance from family, its polling indicating the gap between available child-care slots and population may not be as wide as the three-to-one ratio. Still, more than half of those polled say current availability doesn’t meet their needs.

Information from




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