“We have hundreds of people on our wait list and only a couple dozen spots every year.”

Seattle childcare has never been more in-demand.

  • We spoke with 15 non-chain daycare facilities in Seattle and none of them had immediate availability.
  • While most were ambiguous about the specific length of the wait list, the ones that did give us a timeline said somewhere between six months and two years.
  • Every facility we spoke with said their wait lists have rapidly grown over the past five years. Some went from not having any wait at all to over a two year wait.
  • While the data was limited, anecdotally, the more expensive the daycare, the shorter the wait list.

If you’re thinking about having kids anytime in the next two years in Seattle, you might want to start thinking about getting on daycare wait lists now.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said one daycare administrator in the North Seattle area who asked not to be named. “We have hundreds of people on our wait list and only a couple dozen spots every year.”

Interestingly, capacity in King County has risen according to Child Care Aware, despite the fact that there are fewer childcare professionals in the region. Regardless, demand continues to skyrocket and when we asked professionals in the area for their opinions, here were the general trends we observed:

First, the cost of living in Seattle has risen to a place where it’s fairly difficult for a single income family to live comfortably. It can certainly be done if one parent has a high paying job, but more and more families in Seattle have both parents in the work force. This causes an increase in the number of kids who need child care.

Second, and related to cost of living again, many child care positions are relatively low wage. This makes it difficult for this workforce to live in the city. As they move out, the number of child care professionals drops, straining the existing supply.

Third, costs of daycare in Seattle are going up, which forces more demand on the less expensive facilities. As an example, Bright Horizons, a national chain of day care facilities, has availability in most of their facilities, but we found them to be one of the most expensive options, and their tuition continues to increase.

Smaller facilities in the area who charge less are seeing parents who used other chain facilities previously trying to get their children into these less expensive day cares to save on costs.

We asked several staff members at the various day care centers we spoke with about if they think the new Washington state parental leave policy should help alleviate some of the stress on the current child care system. Many said yes, but that it probably simply kicks the demand down the road a little ways.

In other words, the demand will still exist, it will simply be pushed out a few months.