Looking for child care in Washington? A new online marketplace aims to help
Parents across Washington may soon be able to search in one place online for child care openings in their neighborhoods.
Kinside, a Seattle-based startup, has launched a website where families can find real-time prices and openings at child care centers. Currently, the program only allows people to search for openings in the Seattle area, but co-founder Brittney Barrett said the company hopes to expand soon to more locations.
“There was no easy way to find child care before,” she said. “We’ve created a one-stop shop.”
The company formed in 2018 and has partnered with private companies and state agencies to offer the search service to employees at those organizations, Barrett said. But seeing the difficulty all families face finding child care, Barrett said they decided to open up the search platform to the public.
The new marketplace comes as many Washington parents struggle to find open child care slots that are affordable and as providers face worker shortages.
A state child care task force report from last December found Washington’s child care market to be “broken.” The report pointed to estimates from the Economic Policy Institute that showed costs average around $14,500 per year. It also pointed to high staff turnover, low wages and high poverty rates among providers.
The Legislature passed the Fair Start for Kids Act in 2021, which greatly expanded access to child care for families, increasing who qualifies for subsidies as well as the amounts they can receive.
Providers, however, say more is needed to support the workforce and expand the availability of care. The state estimates about 316,000 children five years and younger need child care but only about 27% have access to a nearby provider.
Barrett said there are many child care centers with openings across the state that have no way to advertise them, making it difficult for families to find those openings.And when providers can’t fill their open slots, they can’t hire more staff to expand available space further, she said.
Barrett said Kinside helps families find not just openings, but also child care prices and provider hours, and to schedule tours of facilities.
Barrett said Kinside has helped about 25,000 parents find care in the last year. Most work for employers who have Kinside as an employment benefit.
The public-facing website launched last month. Barrett said she expects the number of families finding care through the program to increase as more people use the public search tool. The goal is to make finding child care as efficient as possible, she said.
“We do every other single thing online,” she said. “That’s never been the case for child care.”