Almost every county in Oregon, including Deschutes and Crook counties, is a “child care desert,” according to an Oregon State University report released Wednesday, meaning there are three or more children age 5 or younger for each available child care spot in those counties.

Jefferson County was one of only three counties in the state where more than a third of children 5 and younger had access to a child care spot, along with Sherman and Wheeler counties — the two least populous counties in the state. Thirty-­four percent of Jefferson County’s young children have a child care spot available, compared to 20 percent in Deschutes County and 14 percent in Crook County.

In most of Oregon’s largest counties, such as Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Lane, between 20 and 30 percent of children 5 and younger had access to a child care spot. Statewide, there is only about one spot available for every five Oregon children younger than 6.

A slight majority — 52 percent — of the available child care spots in Jefferson County were publicly funded, which includes Oregon prekindergarten classes, Early Head Start, Federal and Tribal Head Start, Oregon Child Development Coalition and Preschool Promise. Meanwhile, Deschutes County had 7 percent publicly funded child care spots, but no publicly funded child care for children 2 and younger. According to the report, these spots are typically reserved for children from very low-income families.

The OSU study did not address child care centers’ quality or affordability, although it did point out that those two factors “play a major role in child care decision-making,” according to a university news release. The median annual price to place a toddler in child care in 2018 was $14,160, the news release stated.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

22512371