Hawaii's early learning system is facing critical shortages.
That's the conclusion of a new report released Thursday by the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Children's Action Network.
The nonprofit found that there's just one state-regulated child care seat for every four children under 6 in Hawaii.
Regulated child care seats include those in center-based care, family childcare homes and public preschool programs.
Jenjira Yahirun knows all about how tough it is to find child care in Hawaii.
She started searching for child care options two months before her daughter was born. And she was told she was getting on waiting lists late.
"Everyone was saying you should've gone on the wait list much earlier," she said. "And I kept on thinking how much earlier can you be? My daughter is 5 months, I'm trying seven months in advance."
Yahirun's experience, experts said, underscores the results of the study on early learning systems and childcare in Hawaii.
"What our research showed is that we have enough licensed and regulated seats in childcare for only 1 in 4 of Hawaii's kids under the age of 5," said Deborah Zysmann, executive director of the Hawaii Children's Action Network.
And as bad as it is for children under 5 in general, it's much worse for babies and toddlers.
According to Zysman, for keiki under 3, there's only one seat for every 37 children in Hawaii.
"To get more spaces we need to make it economically feasible for the providers," Barbara DeBaryshe, the study's lead author. "You really can't make a profit out of childcare. It's not a money-making enterprise."
But child care in Hawaii also doesn't come cheap.
"The average cost for an older child is $9,500 a year. And for those infants and toddlers, it's $13,500. That's average." said Zysman.
"I think there are solutions. I think we need to think about how to have more facilities. How to help folks open more childcare out of their home. How to incentivize, help people, especially in our rural communities."
The study's authors said it will be used to help find ways to get more people into the child care business.
Jenjira said she ended up putting her daughter in part-time daycare at a cost of $1,500 a month.
"I think what needs to happen, people need to have bigger personal networks," she said.
And her most important piece of advice? Don't wait.
"If you don't start early, you're not going to get a spot. Even we started early and barely got a spot."