SALEM, OR (KPTV) - The majority of Oregonians live in what's considered a "child care desert," according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University.

The study, which was commissioned by the Oregon Early Learning Division, found that 60% of Oregonians live in communities with more than three children for every regulated child care slot, which is considered a "child care desert."

The study also found that there are fewer child care slots in 2019 than there were in 1999, and only 19% of the existing slots are publicly funded.

"There is a lack of public investment to really kind of help stabilize the market and ensure that all families can access childcare," said Miriam Calderon, Director of the state's Early Learning System.

The lack of affordable child care makes it difficult for parents to find places to take care of their children.

Kaylee Vickers, who lives in Salem, is expecting her daughter at the end of October, and has found only 12 day care providers in her area that take infants.

She's currently on a wait list.

"It's been a process," said Vickers. "One that's kind of nerve wracking when you don't know."

In northeast Portland, Albina Early Head Start, which provides early education from infancy to Pre-K for low-income families, has a wait list of more than 300 children.

The program is fully subsidized, but parents need to make less than $26,000 per year to qualify.

"Because we're income based, they can't get in," said Elaine Harrison, Director of Albina Early Head Start. "You can make a few dollars more. But you still could be suffering. And you still may or may not be making ends meet."

Calderon said the Student Success Act, passed by the State Legislature this past session, dedicated $200 million more to early learning, which should open up an estimated 10,000 additional child care slots for families in need.

Harrison believes all families, regardless of income, should have access to quality affordable child care.

The authors of the OSU study said a solution to the problem will need to address affordability, not just supply.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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