For home-based child care providers, the living situation is inseparable from the work, and when one suffers, the other does too. That tricky dynamic, while not new, has gotten more tenuous in recent years — particularly since the pandemic, with home prices skyrocketinginterest rates increasing and rental home prices inflating.

One quarter of child care providers surveyed between March 2021 and December 2022 reported difficulty affording housing expenses, regardless of whether they rent or own, according to RAPID, a project based out of Stanford University that gathers information about young children and their caregivers. Those rates were higher among Latino (36 percent) and Black (35 percent) providers, almost all of whom are women. Eviction and foreclosure are common concerns, too: 42 percent of providers worry about not being able to make their rent or mortgage payments.

It’s not just the cost of renting and buying homes that creates challenges either. In-home child care providers face a host of hurdles when it comes to housing, from resistance from landlords and homeowners associations (HOAs) to onerous licensing requirements and regulations.

Together, those barriers are forcing would-be or once-were caregivers out of the sector, which serves millions of children across the country. This is leaving a workforce that is overwhelmingly made up of women and is disproportionately people of color without livelihoods and reducing the already-scarce child care supply in the process.

Data collected over the past two decades by the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reveals the extent of the loss. Between 2005 and 2017, nearly half of all licensed home-based programs closed. By 2019, the number of licensed programs had further declined, with only about 91,000 remaining open across the United States, according to the National Survey of Early Care and Education.

While growth in center-based care capacity made up for those losses, it doesn’t help the millions of families who prefer a home-based setting. Some are attracted to the small-group aspect of it, the intimacy. Others choose it because it ties their child to a shared background or culture — perhaps a caregiver speaks the same language that the child’s family speaks at home or immigrated from the same country.

Home-based providers often describe their programs as feeling more like a second family than an institution, where providers go beyond the scope of the job description to attend birthday parties and sporting events or stay in touch with a family well after the youngest child starts school. There is trust and familiarity.

Read the full article about home-based childcare providers by Emily Tate Sullivan at EdSurge.