Catalyzing Growth: Using Data to Change Child Care

Our child care system is in crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic made a weak, disjointed system crumble even further. Parents struggle to find accessible, affordable, quality child care while the child care workforce is shrinking due to decades of low pay and a lack of respect regarding the critical nature of its work.

How can we catalyze or accelerate the changes that our child care system needs to overcome these challenges? One important factor is data. In this series of reports, Child Care Aware® of America will use data from various sources to answer this question. In our first report, Annual Child Care Landscape Analysis: 2021 Supply and Quality Trends, data from our most recent survey of Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies is used to explore how the supply of child care has changed since 2019. In our second report, Price of Care: 2021 Child Care Affordability, we update our child care affordability data and national price averages. Our third report, Perspectives from the Field: The Voices of Child Care Providers, CCR&Rs and Families, analyzes data from families with young children and child care providers to understand how these groups are coping with the challenges brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic stresses. This report also highlights how CCR&Rs are helping connect families to child care and strengthen the child care workforce. Our final report, The Year in Child Care: 2021 Data, Analysis and Recommendations, summarizes all of the research work that CCAoA has done over the past year, while highlighting key child care data findings from studies conducted outside of CCAoA. With the right data, we can catalyze the growth that our child care system needs in order to work for all families and providers.  

  • Coming Soon:
    • Price of Care: 2021 Child Care Affordability
    • Perspectives from the Field: The Voices of Child Care Providers, CCR&Rs and Families
    • The Year in Child Care: 2021 Data, Analysis and Recommendations

Click here to hear about upcoming releases.

Annual Child Care Landscape Analysis:

2021 Supply and Quality Trends


Our child care system continues to experience multiple crises, with families finding it difficult to locate reliable child care that they can afford. Between 2020 and 2021, the overall supply of child care programs continued to decrease, leaving families with even fewer options than before the pandemic. This was driven primarily by a continuing (or long term trend) decline in Family Child Care Homes over the period. While stabilization funds may have helped limit the decrease in programs, without significant new, permanent investments in early care and education in this country, the challenges associated with the child care system will continue.  Understanding this landscape is a crucial first step towards advocating for an equitable, accessible and affordable child care system.

Tracking child care supply is critical to understanding how our child care system is functioning. In order to provide this critical data, Child Care Aware® of America releases its Annual Child Care Landscape Analysis. The goal of the Annual Child Care Landscape Analysis is to help child care advocates and policymakers easily understand the child care supply in their states. This year, the Landscape Analysis includes the following information, by state:

  • Number of licensed child care centers and family child care (FCC) homes open at the end of 2019, 2020 and 2021;
  • Number of licensed school-age child care programs open at the end of 2021;
  • Total licensed capacity for centers, FCCs, and school-age child care programs at the end of 2021;
  • Number of programs participating in quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS), along with the total capacity of these programs;
  • Total number and licensed capacity of programs rated at the highest level of the state’s QRIS;
  • Total number of child care referrals provided to families by child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies.

This year, CCAoA is featuring longitudinal supply data to increase user understanding regarding how the supply of child care has changed since 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationally, we found that while there was an increase in the number of child care centers from 2020 to 2021, the total number of centers remains slightly lower than the number open in 2019.


There continues to be a downward trend in the supply of licensed FCC homes. Among the 40 states for which we have complete data, we found a decrease from 107,783 in 2019 to 97,393 in 2021. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply of FCC homes was decreasing. This is an alarming trend because FCC homes are an affordable option for many families. FCC homes are often the only choice for families, especially in rural communities.



The information found in the state fact sheets comes from a variety of sources. In January 2022, CCAoA surveyed state Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies or other key child care stakeholders in each state (for example, state agencies responsible for administering the federally-funded Child Care and Development Block Grant). The survey covered the following topics: child care supply and capacity, quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS), CCR&R services and annual child care prices. Respondents were asked to complete the survey based on data as of December 2021. Data from the survey not included here, such as those on price, will be presented in upcoming CCAoA reports.

Some states have more data points present in their Child Care Landscape Analysis than others. Some states are unable to answer some survey questions because of differing definitions or not collecting certain data points. Child care supply and QRIS data were gathered from public databases for the following states: Alabama, California, District of Columbia, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.

If you need more information about the Child Care Landscape Analysis methodology, please contact us at

Price of Care:

2021 Child Care Affordability

Coming Soon

Perspectives from the Field:

The Voices of Child Care Providers, CCR&Rs and Families 

Coming Soon

The Year in Child Care:

2021 Data, Analysis and Recommendations

Coming Soon

Dig Deeper

Use our Child Care Data Center to explore state- and county-level data about child care affordability, accessibility, health and the impact of COVID-19 on child care supply from six pilot states (Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin).

Want to Do More?

Get involved in the effort to ensure that every family in the U.S. has access to a high-quality, affordable child care system. You can help make that vision a reality by sharing this critical information with your policymakers and encouraging them to invest in child care and early learning. You can also share this information with your network by utilizing our social media toolkit. For more information on what is happening at the federal, state, and local levels around child care policies, view our additional resources. 

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