According to Child Care Aware of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report, the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a center ranged from $4,600 in Mississippi to nearly $15,000 in Massachusetts; for a 4-year-old in a center, the costs ranged from about $3,900 to nearly $11,700.
The report also found that in 36 states, the average annual cost for center-based infant care exceeded a year’s in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public college. Even the annual cost of care for a 4-year-old—which is less expensive than infant care—was higher than public college costs in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
And, it seems, prices are on the rise. The cost of infant care in a center or family child care home increased about 2 percent in 2011, where the cost of care for a 4-year-old increased by more than 4 percent. And the burden is even heavier for the many parents with multiple children in care: Center-based child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeded annual median rent payments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Some locations are harder for parents than others: New York, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Indiana and Wisconsin are the 10 least-affordable states for full-time infant care in a center in 2011.
Child care programs are doing what they can to keep costs affordable for families, but it’s difficult to maintain a program (cover salaries and other operational costs) while also keeping weekly rates at levels parents can afford.
What can working parents do to manage the high cost of child care? A gut reaction may be to switch your child from a licensed program to a less formal, less expensive child care setting. That option may save money, but often those settings are of unknown quality. There is no check for basic health and safety standards and other practices that promote healthy child development in child care settings that aren’t licensed.
The good news: Financial resources are available, and your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) can help you locate them. Financial assistance includes:
• State Child Care Subsidies
• Local Programs
• Employer/College Support
• Child Care Program Assistance
• Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) Programs
• Head Start and Early Head Start Programs
• Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
• Federal Child Tax Credit (CTC)
• Federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
• State Earned Income and Dependent Care Tax Credits
• Dependent Care Assistance Programs (DCAPs)