Arlington, VA - Child care programs across the nation are on the decline and vacancy rates are on the rise, according to the results of a survey recently conducted by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) on the impact of the nation’s recession on child care. The survey of local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) showed that 27 percent of CCR&Rs experienced declines in the number of child care centers in their communities and 45 percent experienced declines in the number of family child care homes between the first and last half of 2008. Half of the CCR&Rs saw child care centers in their communities close within the last six months of 2008 and many experienced the closing of family child care homes.
Child care centers and family child care homes have also experienced a sharp increase in vacancy rates. According to the results of the survey, 65 percent of CCR&Rs reported that in the last six months of 2008, there was an increase in vacancy rates in child care centers and 76 percent reported increases in vacancies in family child care homes. "Increases in vacancy rates can be very problematic," said Linda Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. "Child care programs operate on very thin profit margins and any prolonged decline in enrollment can spell disaster."
In addition, 48 percent of CCR&Rs indicated that within the last six months of 2008 child care centers closed classrooms in their communities and 41 percent indicated that child care centers were laying-off staff. Requests for part-time care are on the rise – 41 percent of CCR&Rs reported that the number of requests for part-time care has increased between June and December of 2008. Additionally, almost three-quarters of CCR&Rs (74 percent) believe that the number of families unable to make child care payments or those falling behind in these payments has increased during the same time period.
"The results of this survey clearly show that the country’s recession has significantly impacted the number of children in child care," said Smith. "As parents lose their jobs, cut back hours, or have to take lower paying jobs, they are no longer able to pay the high price of child care. So parents are forced to pull their children from child care and as a result programs are closing, providers are being laid off, and families and communities are suffering."
The most recent employment data shows that the unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent and steadily climbing. Nearly 12 million Americans are out of work. Another 8 million are working part-time because they cannot find full-time work. And the number of part-time workers rose by 3.4 million over the past 12 months. Finding part-time child care can be difficult.
"When families are out of work or their hours are reduced, child care is often times the first thing families cut. Parents begin to look for less expensive options, often times unregulated care, which could potentially jeopardize the health and safety of the children in that care. That’s why it is more important now than ever before that we make high-quality child care more affordable for all families," said Smith.
Child care is expensive and is a major household expense for parents of young children. According to NACCRRA’s Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2008 Update, the average price of full-time care for an infant in a center can be as high as $15,895 a year. For a 4-year-old in a center, parents pay up to $11,678 a year for full-time care. In every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant are higher than the average amount that families spent on food. Child care fees for two children at any age exceed median rent costs and are nearly as high as or even higher than the average mortgage payment.
To determine the impact of the nation’s recent recession on child care, NACCRRA surveyed CCR&Rs, which are agencies that help parents find child care, build the supply of child care, and improve the quality of child care in their communities. The survey was designed to obtain both quantitative and qualitative responses from local CCR&Rs on the current condition of child care in their local communities. Responses were obtained from about one-third of the more than 700 local agencies and respondents represented 40 states. For complete survey results, please visit www.naccrra.org.