Press Releases

Despite Weak Economy, Child Care Costs Continue to Rise

August 15, 2012
Report

Quality child care is becoming increasingly difficult to afford for working families

ARLINGTON, VA-- According to a report released today by Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies), the cost of child care continues to increase while families struggle to afford quality care. Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report  provides results from a survey of Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) State Networks and local agencies, which asked for the average fees charged by child care programs in 2011.

The report provides the average cost of child care in 2011 for infants, 4-year-olds, and school-age children in centers and family child care homes nationwide. It shows that in 36 states (including the District of Columbia), the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college. In every state and the District of Columbia, center-based child care costs for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeded annual average rent payments.

"Families need child care in order to work," said Ollie M. Smith, Child Care Aware® of America’s Interim Executive Director. "But, child care today is simply unaffordable for too many families. This is not a low income issue. Families at nearly every income -- except for the very wealthy -- struggle with the cost of child care."

According to the report, in 2011, the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a center ranged from about $4,600 in Mississippi to nearly $15,000 in Massachusetts. The average annual cost of full-time care for a 4-year-old child in a center ranged from about $3,900 in Mississippi to nearly $11,700 in Massachusetts. In New York, parents of school-age children paid nearly $11,000 a year for part-time care in a center. The report also found that in 2011, the average annual cost of full-time care for an infant in a family child care home ranged from $4,500 in South Carolina to nearly $10,400 in New York. The average annual cost for a 4-year-old in a family child care home ranged from $4,100 in South Carolina to about $9,600 in New York.

The report ranks the 10 least-affordable states for center care based on the cost of child care as a percentage of state median income for a two-parent family. The 10 least affordable states (in ranked order) for full-time center-based infant care in 2011 were: New York, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The least-affordable states (in ranked order) for full-time care for a 4-year-old in a center in 2011 were: New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Indiana, Maine and Rhode Island.

"During the critical years of birth through age 5, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed and essential learning patterns are established which affect school-readiness," said Smith. "Affordability is important because for many families, the cost affects the settings they are able to choose. Parents want quality care. They want their children to be safe. But, too many families struggle with the cost of care as they hope for the best for their children."

In the United States, nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in child care each week and although child care costs are high, most states have inadequate requirements for the quality of care. Currently, the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides funds to states to help make child care more affordable for families, does not require that funds be used to pay for licensed care. Nationally, about one-fifth of children who receive CCDBG assistance are in unlicensed settings. In 10 states, 30 percent or more of the children who receive child care assistance are in unlicensed settings.

Unlicensed settings do not have to meet state health and safety standards, providers are not required to be trained and the settings are not inspected. "There should be more accountability for quality when child care is licensed or when government funds are used to pay for child care," Smith said. "Children spend an average of 35 hours a week in child care which means child care is a key early learning program. It is time for policymakers to recognize that connection and strengthen the quality of care to promote safety and child development. For the cost, that’s what parents think they are getting. Sometimes they are. But, often they are not."

To ensure children are safe, to improve the quality of early learning and to make child care more affordable for working families, Child Care Aware® of America recommends that Congress: 

  • Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to define minimally acceptable quality child care.
  • Require the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the true cost of quality care and to offer recommendations to Congress for financing to support quality options for parents.
  • Reauthorize CCDBG and add requirements to improve the quality of care:
    • Require 40 hours of initial training and 24 hours of annual training in key areas such as CPR, first aid, early childhood development, child behavior/discipline and child abuse detection and prevention.
    • Require provider background checks, including fingerprint checks, to ensure child safety.
    • Require regular, unannounced inspections at least once a year (preferably more often) to ensure effective oversight.
  • Invest in Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies to:
    • Assist providers in becoming licensed and in maintaining compliance with licensing standards;
    • Help parents identify quality settings.
  • Increase the quality set-aside to 12 percent, increasing over several years to 25 percent (on par with Head Start).

Click here to learn more and download a copy of Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report.

Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies), is our nation's leading voice for child care. We work with more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about Child Care Aware® of America and how you can join us in ensuring access to quality child care for all families, visit us at www.naccrra.org.