For years, the skyrocketing cost of child care has been a burden on parents. But a report released Thursday by Child Care Aware revealed just how stark the problem has become.
According to Child Care Aware, a group that provides resources to parents and caregivers, the average cost of child care is at least a quarter of the median income of single parents.
In fact, child care is the highest single household expense each year for parents in the Northeast, Midwest and South regions.
The study found that child care fees for two children exceeded housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
In 30 states and Washington, D.C., the average yearly cost of infant center-based care was more than a year’s in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges.
In every region of the United States, the average child care fees for an infant in a child care center were more than double the average amount that families spent on food. Furthermore, center-based care costs exceeded transportation costs in nearly every region.
The report revealed that the cost of child care can be as much as $14,508 annually for an infant or $12,280 annually for a 4-year-old in a center.
Despite the overwhelming costs, finding quality child care isn’t something parents can ignore. Research shows that 90 percent of a child’s critical brain development happens by age 5. And of children who start school without the skills needed to succeed, 85 percent are still behind in the fourth grade.
According to the report, the 10 least affordable states in 2013 for full-time center-based infant care were (ranked in order): New York, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois, Nevada, California and Kansas.
For full-time center-based care for a 4-year-old, the least affordable states were (ranked in order): New York, Vermont, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Maine.
Child Care Aware also published several recommendations for addressing rising child care costs. Those recommendations include:
- Having a national discussion about the impact of the high cost of child care and the cost of quality in child care.
- Congress to review and consider what policy options are available to help families offset the rising cost of child care.
- Congress to require the National Academy of Sciences to produce a study on the true cost of quality child care and to offer recommendations to Congress for financing that supports families in finding affordable, quality child care.
- Federal and state governments to commit to investing in early care and education programs.
- Parents, concerned citizens and early care and education professionals to urge federal and state legislators to address the overwhelming cost of quality child care.
- Provide resources for planning and developing child care capacity to increase the availability of high-quality child-care options for working families.
- Provide child care assistance to families who do not qualify for fee assistance but who can’t afford the market cost of child care in their community.