OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR)- There’s a new effort to combat another growing problem for Oklahoma families — the lack of child care in their neighborhoods.

That prompted Oklahoma Human Services to create childcare desert startup grants. 

“This is a grant intended to bolster and increase access to licensed childcare in the state of Oklahoma,” said Casey White with Oklahoma Human Services.

The announcement was exciting news for Little Hearts Child Development Center owners, Sophiya and Walter Taylor IV, who sustained the war the pandemic has waged on their facility. 

“Luckily, throughout COVID, we were able to hold on and maintain our staff,” said Taylor. “However, like many industries, we still face staffing shortages.” 

The couple owns two childcare centers in the city’s Britton District. 

When Sophiya heard of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services child care desert startup grants she was eager to learn more.

“We have about 34 of the state’s 77 counties that are considered childcare deserts, which is where there’s not enough licensed childcare to actually support the needs of families in that community,” said White.” 

White told KFOR that 65% of our state’s population live in a childcare desert.

That means many Oklahoma parents don’t have access to a safe and nurturing environment where their children can be cared for — while working outside of the home.

“It is a significant impact on Oklahoma’s families,” said White. “We’re hoping that this grant helps.” 

The grant provides for Oklahomans who want to open a brand-new center and helps existing childcare centers that need more resources to expand.

“I think that will help because that’s one challenge we’ve had,” said Taylor. “We’ve been wanting to expand. I think that’s great to partner together and take daycare and early education to the next level.” 

Applications for the Child Care Desert Startup grants will be available until budgeted funds are depleted or until July 31, 2023. To learn more or make an application for a Child Care Desert Startup Grant, click here.