Child Care Costs Rise While Families Fight to Recover from Economic Downturn

Aug 17, 2012

By Stephanie Schmit

The recession may officially be over, but families are still feeling the effects of the downturned economy. One challenge many parents face is the rising cost of child care, which is often one of the costliest items in a family budget. In 2011, child care costs exceeded 10 percent of the median household income for a two-parent family in 40 states and the District of Columbia, according Child Care Aware (formerly the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA), which released the latest update in its ongoing research on the cost of care, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report.

The annual report, which looks at how much parents in every state pay for young children to be in a variety of care settings, found that the average annual cost of center-based care for an infant ranged from $4,600 to $15,000 per year across states, up 2 percent over 2010, and the average cost of center-based care for a 4-year-old child ranged from $3,900 to $11,700, up 4.2 percent over 2010. These high costs rival families' spending on food, rent, and mortgage payments. In 35 states, the average annual cost of child care exceeds state college tuition.

Child care assistance makes quality child care more affordable, supports the healthy development of children, and helps low-income parents access the child care they need to go to work or to school so that they can support their families. The sequester has the potential to dramatically impact many programs critical to young children. According to estimates, 80,000 fewer children could receive child care subsidies if Congress doesn't act soon to craft another deal to avoid the looming spending cuts

Parents are working to stress the importance of child care assistance, including participation in a recent Senate hearing, and ongoing advocacy at the state and federal level. Meanwhile, the House recently marked up its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, which proposed increased funding of $25 million for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Although this bill is just the first step in a long federal appropriations process and would not offset the negative effects of the sequester, it indicates policymakers' understanding of the need for increased child care funding and the importance of these programs for states, local communities, and families.

As the budget and appropriations process advances, CLASP will continue to urge Congress to do what's right for the many working parents who rely on child care subsidies to go to work, and for their children who need the foundation that quality care provides.

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