Montana’s Recovery Depends on Child Care. Relief Funding Can Make it Affordable and Accessible.

Montana KIDS COUNT released a report detailing data on child care availability, quality, and affordability, “Child Care is Critical to a Modern Economy. Montana Has the Opportunity to Make It Affordable and Accessible.” This report finds that Montana families across the state struggle to find and pay for child care. At the same time, child care businesses operate on narrow margins and often must sacrifice worker pay.

“We know that most parents need child care to keep working, but availability is difficult to find. For every three kids under 6, there is only one licensed slot available,” said Xanna Burg, KIDS COUNT Coordinator with the Montana Budget & Policy Center. “Part of the low supply is because child care businesses struggle to stay open and offer good wages to workers. Providers do not have many options though, as parents already cannot afford child care costs.”

Highlights from the report findings for Montana include:

  • The current licensed child care supply provides one slot for every three children under age 6.
  • Six counties do not have even one licensed child care business.
  • Child care often costs more than in-state tuition at UM or MSU.
  • Child care workers earn $22,900 per year if working full time, barely hovering above the minimum wage.

“Child care is essential as Montana reopens because businesses need workers that have a safe and reliable place for their children during the day. Investing in child care is a win for children, families, and businesses,” said Stephanie Morton, Program Manager with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies. “When child care works, our state can get back to work.”

Montana received more than $200 million in federal relief money to support child care. Montana KIDS COUNT provides ten recommendations for utilizing these funds to build a better child care system for children, parents, and businesses that can help now and in the future. The portion of federal money set aside for child care businesses should focus on areas with significant shortage including rural areas, care for infants and toddlers, and providers with non-traditional hours. Capacity grants to encourage new child care businesses can help bolster supply while additional support for Head Start is a ready-built solution to reach more children in Montana.

Montana KIDS COUNT also created an interactive visualization to explore available data on child care in our state. County-level data on access, quality, and affordability can be found at

About Montana KIDS COUNT

Montana KIDS COUNT is a leading resource for data on child and family well-being in the state and is dedicated to providing current, relevant, and reliable data to shape the issues affecting Montana children and families. More information can be found at Montana KIDS COUNT is a project of the Montana Budget & Policy Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization providing in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. More information can be found at