North Carolina Sees Nearly 5% Drop in Child Care Programs During Pandemic

Child care centers in North Carolina are shuttering ahead of the state’s pandemic funding expiration.

Stats released by NC Child Care Resource and Referral Council (CCR&R) and the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) show nearly a 5% drop in programs since February 2020.

Since June 2023, shut down of licensed child care centers has surpassed new openings, a trend accelerating lately.

Between June and December 2023, North Carolina lost 34 programs. However, the first quarter of 2024 alone saw a drop of 41.

Experts, like providers themselves, had foreseen this, following the legislature’s decision against extending stabilization funds beyond June 2024.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, has acknowledged the child care crisis as a “priority” for their legislative sessions, but a concrete plan is yet to be disclosed.

Urban and Suburban Insights

Relying on data from multiple sources, EdNC examined the change in licensed child care programs across North Carolina’s urban, suburban, and rural areas since February 2020.

Each of the six urban counties witnessed a dip in child care programs, with Durham and New Hanover leading with losses of 14.3% and 13.2%, respectively.

Among the state’s 16 suburban counties, there was a decrease of 2.8%, although some counties showed no loss and some even gained programs.

Buncombe stands as an exception in suburban counties, with an increase in licensed child care offerings since 2020. The county has focused on early childhood development, ensuring children have quality care in the early years.

Rural Landscape

Most of North Carolina’s counties are classified as rural, and these areas collectively lost 4.3% of licensed child care programs since February 2020.

Of the rural counties, a notable proportion experienced net losses, with single closures having a significant impact in certain regions.

For instance, Camden and Graham each saw a 25% decrease from a single program closure. Meanwhile, some rural counties remain stable or have gained programs.

Geographically, rural counties have shown varied trends, with gains observed in counties like Person and Robeson, while losses were noted in counties like Caldwell and Carteret.

This overall decline in licensed child care facilities statewide could have repercussions on the economic trajectory of North Carolina.

Early investment in child care and education not only aids parents in workforce engagement but also enhances children’s health, reduces incarceration rates, and lays the groundwork for their educational and economic prosperity.

Check back in June 2024 for the next update, just before the anticipated funding cliff that could lead to further closures and impact on classrooms without additional financial support.

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