You might want to sit down for this one.
Waitlists are an essential part of the child care journey. It can be helpful to think of them as a way to find the best program for your family's needs, rather than a roadblock on your search for care.
Nationwide, the average waitlist length is 18 months long. In the Seattle area, it can be even longer depending on your child's age group. The graph below shows the average time families in Seattle spend on waitlists before being offered a seat.
Families looking for infant care usually spend the most time on a waitlist before finding care, nationwide and in Seattle. The average time on a waitlist for infant care is 36 months—or three years! That’s why child care experts strongly encourage parents to start searching for child care at least 18 months before the planned enrollment date. This is especially important for parents who need infant care to return to work by a certain date.
In the Seattle area, the age group with the second longest waitlist time is for children between 12 - 24 months. The average waitlist time for that age group is around 18 months. Waitlist times for both 24 - 48 month olds and 48 - 60 month olds were about 8 months, while parents on waitlists for children over 60 months old waited 10 months on average before being offered a seat.
In other words, infant care is the highest in demand, followed by care for 12 - 24 month olds, and care for children over 60 months.
What's behind the long waitlists? Besides demand exceeding supply—that is, the number of seats needed is far greater than the number of actual openings—child care programs move through their waitlists at different rates. Contributing factors include: adequate staffing for the state's required child-to-caregiver ratios, finding a family on the waitlist that matches the criteria for an open seat, and even down to the way a program manually or digitally manages their waitlist.
The good news? Families who use The Child Care Concierge to find care spend an average of 3-6 months on a waitlist before enrolling in care. Plus, you get full waitlist transparency so you can check your status anytime online. Get started for free!