Let’s Grow Kids, with the advisement of Building Bright Futures, the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children, Vermont Birth to Five, the Vermont Child Care Providers Association, and the Vermont Department for Children and Families Child Development Division, is pleased to share its 2018 report on the supply of and demand for regulated (licensed or registered) infant and toddler child care in Vermont. (Click here to read the 2018 report.)

This updated report is based on the 2016 study, which was developed in partnership with Building Bright Futures, Vermont Birth to Five, the Vermont Department for Children and Families Child Development Division, and the Vermont Department of Health Maternal and Child Health Division.

According to the US Census Bureau, more than 70% of Vermont children under the age of six live in families in which all available parents are in the labor force. For these families, especially those with infants and toddlers, balancing work and life means figuring out how young children will be cared for during work hours. We refer to these children as "likely to need care" (LTNC). While families rely on all different kinds of arrangements to meet the care and learning needs of their children, for many families, child care providers play a central role in the care and development of young children and allow parents to attend school or retain their jobs.

In our outreach work in communities across the state, we've heard that many parents struggle to find child care that meets their needs. It was clear that Vermont had a shortage of child care (particularly high-quality care), but in order to better understand the problem, we wanted to define it in numbers. The 2016 study found that, statewide, Vermont lacked sufficient regulated child care to meet the needs of infants and toddlers LTNC. The 2018 report shows there continues to be a critical child care shortage statewide and in every county:

The numbers are even more alarming when you look at access for infants alone. We found that, statewide:

  • 84% of infants LTNC don't have access to high-quality programs.
  • 65% of infants LTNC don't have access to any regulated programs.

This lack of access to early care and learning programs is a significant challenge not only for Vermont’s families with young children, but also for Vermont’s communities and economy.

What Do We Mean By High-Quality Child Care?

High-quality early care and learning programs are staffed by consistent, nurturing caregivers educated in early childhood learning and development. In addition to keeping children safe, high-quality programs offer a clean, cheerful environment with outdoor space, and include play-based activities that enrich and promote learning and development, preparing children for success in school, relationships and life.

In Vermont, regulated child care programs can participate in the state’s voluntary quality recognition and improvement system, called STARS (STep Ahead Recognition System). Within STARS, child care programs can receive a quality recognition level of 1 to 5 stars. This report refers to programs that have achieved 4- and 5-star recognition levels as high-quality because these levels have been identified in legislation, by partner organizations and in the work of Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care as targets for quality.

Earning stars takes time and there are many quality child care programs in Vermont committed to continuous improvement that have not yet achieved a 4- or 5-star rating. We want to acknowledge these programs and note that this level of detail is not reflected in this particular report. More information about regulated child care programs in Vermont can be found at www.brightfutures.dcf.state.vt.us.


County-level analysis

How are we meeting the need for child care in each county? Looking at access at the county level, in some places up to 98% of infants likely to need care do not have access to high-quality, regulated programs. Take a county-by-county look at the links below:

Grand Isle


Click here to read the 2016 report.