Is there a child care crisis in America?
With the average cost of full-time day care for a 4-year-old approaching the cost of college tuition, families are desperate to find affordable options.
Parents of school-aged children are breathing a sigh of relief this month, as they send their kids back to school and say goodbye to pricey summer camp bills. Parents of younger children are not so lucky.
The Census Bureau estimates that on any given week about 12.5 million children under age five are enrolled in some form of childcare, but the struggle to find affordable, quality care has become so difficult, some are calling it a crisis.
According to Childcare Aware of America, a childcare advocacy nonprofit, the average cost of full-time daycare for a four-year old ranges from $3,900 to $11,700 per year with urban parents paying 28% more, on average, than rural parents in the same state.
It’s no wonder the birth-rate has been dropping.
In 20 states and the District of Columbia, the cost of day care for two children exceeds the average mortgage payment, and in 36 states and the District of Columbia, a year of daycare for an infant costs more than a year of tuition at an in-state college. But unlike college costs, there is currently no system of public financing to help make childcare more affordable. (New York has launched a pilot program making low-interest loans available to families who need help covering child care costs.)
Although the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that families spend only 10% of their combined income on childcare, that’s tough for middle-income families and almost impossible for low-income families without a federal subsidy, says Michelle Noth McCready, a senior state and local policy adviser for Child Care Aware of AmericaCCAA. The cost of full-time care for one infant ranges from about 7% to 16% of the median income for a married couple.
When Jeannie Stephenson’s son was born in 2011, she realized her bakery job wouldn’t cover day care costs near her pricey South Loop, Chicago neighborhood. Stephenson was able to stop working (relying on her husband’s income to cover rent and family expenses) and stay home with her baby. She even brought in extra money by caring for another couple’s infant as well.
But Stephenson wanted to go back to work, so she and her husband decided to make some big changes. They moved to a bigger apartment in a cheaper neighborhood. That let them hire a nanny, who takes care of their child while Jeannie goes to work. The nanny also rents a room in the couple’s larger apartment, which offsets some of the expense of his salary.
Stephenson estimates that the arrangement saves her about $500 per month compared to the cost of nearby childcare facilities.
While urban parents may have access to day care alternatives like live-in care, nanny-shares, and childcare co-ops, rural parents and often have fewer choices, lower incomes, and limited public transportation says Kathleen Belanger, a social work professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, and a member of Rural Policy Research Institute's human services panel.
Even in locales with an abundance of child care facilities, quality is a concern. A 2013 study by Child Care Aware of AmericaCCAA that measured how well day care facilities adhered to state licensing requirements showed that all states, on average, earned a "C" grade or below on a standard grading scale. Facilities that maintain above-par standards frequently have a waiting list.
"I found out that I was pregnant in May and when I was talking to some friends in July, my friend said 'If you're not on a waiting list for a daycare by now, you might not get into daycare. I was [two] months pregnant at the time,'" explains Becca Perez, a research analyst based in the small town of Blacksburg, Va. "There were a lot of daycares in the area here, but not a lot that we would consider putting our daughter in."
Of the 19 licensed daycare facilities listed in Blacksburg area codes by the Virginia Department of Social Services, only four were free of licensing violations in the past two years. These violations ranged from minor infractions to more serious issues.
More than a year later, Perez's now six-month-old daughter is still on waiting lists for two day care centers. Perez and her husband switch off on child care duties while she works during the day and he does consulting work from home at night. Perez says that they're satisfied with the arrangement and that it saves about $750 a month in expenses.
"I think even if we did (get into a day care), we'd probably still keep up with this plan," she says.
More from The Fiscal Times:
- The 12 most expensive states to raise children in
- Why women are leaving the workforce in record numbers
- Millennials hit the brakes on 60-year-old driving boom
You've got to be sh1tt1ng me! No more than 10% of income for daycare??????? My husband and I were both active duty military. Our take home pay was around $3000 a month (early 1990's and we lived on base). Daycare on base would've been $1500 - $1800 a month. We found some downtown for $600 - $800 a month, unfortunately, downtown was 22 miles one way.
When we got transferred to Texas, my job transferred, but I lost most of my hours and 35% of my pay - TX had a different pay scale than ND so it wouldn't be fair for me to keep making what I was making up north (according to who?). I had to quit after a year or so because I got tired of paying more than I was making in day care. My checks would be around $75 or so, then I had to borrow another $25 - $30 from my husband on top of the entire $75 of my paycheck to pay for the daycare while I was working.
Just keep cranking them out and ask someone else to take responsibility,...That's the answer
Children are beutiful, they bring lots of joy but they are expensive and cost alot of money, time and effot to raise. if you can't afford to care, feed, house and pay for daycare if you work then don't have them. Those complaining about the cost are not better than the welfare baby mama's that want help in caring for a baby we taxpayers did not have the pleasure of making.
I also believe in getting rid of the child credit.
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