New Report Shows High Cost of Child Care

Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report

Parents want quality child care for their children, but the slow economic recovery and the high cost of child care make paying for child care difficult for working families.

In August, Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies), released Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report, which presents 2011 data about the price parents pay for full-time child care in each state.

The report includes average fees for both child care centers and family child care homes for infants, 4-year-olds and school-age children in every state.

Report Highlights:

  • 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.
  • In 2011, the average annual cost of full-time child care for a 4-year-old in a center ranged from about $3,900 in Mississippi to nearly $11,700 in Massachusetts.
  • In 2011, the average annual cost of care for an infant in a family child care home ranged from about $4,500 in South Carolina to nearly $10,400 in New York.
  • In 2011, the average annual cost of care for a 4- year-old in a family child care home ranged from about $4,100 in South Carolina to about $9,600 in New York.

Child care costs more than college

  • In 36 states (including the District of Columbia), the average annual cost for center-based infant care exceeded a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four year public college.

Child care costs more than rent

  • 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.

Least Affordable States for Child Care

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.

As this report shows, safety, health and school readiness comes at a cost that many parents cannot afford. Some parents choose unlicensed options that may be less expensive but are of unknown quality.  There is no check for basic health and safety protections and practices that promote healthy child development in unlicensed care.  The current approach to child care is not sufficient to ensure all children start school ready to learn. It cannot ensure that low-income children, especially those receiving public funding, are in quality care.

Child Care Financing Challenges

In the United States, the cost of child care is largely borne by parents. Unlike the cost of higher education, there is no system of public financing to help make child care more affordable for families. Parents from all income levels, especially middle-income parents, feel the pressure.

The federal government provides grants to states through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).  States use these funds to subsidize the monthly cost of child care for low income working families. However, only one out of every six eligible children receives assistance. The real issue, however, is that child care is unaffordable for most families – not just low income families.

It is time for Congress, and the states, to design a system so that all families, not just wealthy ones, can afford quality child care.

Child Care Aware® of America recommends that Congress:

  • Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to define minimally acceptable quality child care.
  • Require the National Academy of Sciences to study the real 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.

To read a one page summary of the report as well as related media materials, see Child Care Aware® of America’s web siteClick here to urge your Members of Congress to review child care financing and make child care more affordable for families.  Click here to join our Letter-to-the-Editor campaign to help raise the visibility about the cost of child care in the media.

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Child Care Inspections Promote Children’s Safety

In a Pennsylvania child care setting, 17-month-old Warren died in an outdated and unsafe crib that trapped his head in a corner. Sadly, an inspection could have made a difference — potentially saving his life. Unfortunately, too many states do not inspect child care programs on a regular basis. California only inspects child care centers once every five years. Michigan only inspects in-home child care programs once every ten years. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the federal law that allocates funds for child care to states and sets the framework for state child care laws, does not require any inspections.

Inspections aren’t “paperwork.” Regular monitoring ensures the safety and healthy development of children. Read Child Care Aware® of America’s white paper on children’s deaths in child care throughout the country. Read the stories of parents related to health and safety or lack of training, which has led to serious injury or tragedy. Studies show that inspections reduce the likelihood of injury and death.

It is time to require regular unannounced inspections at least once a year (preferably more often) and post the inspection results on the internet so parents can be informed consumers. Urge your Members of Congress today to require regular unannounced child care inspections and to post the inspection reports on the internet. Click here to take action!

Children should be safe in child care. Inspections help make that happen.

Joshua’s Story

Joshua Minton’s parents did what many parents do when looking for child care. They asked family, friends and neighbors for recommendations. They selected a provider for their son Joshua. They didn’t know that the provider had been cited over a period of years for numerous safety violations in state inspection reports. Several times, the provider had been cited for inappropriate discipline. Nevertheless, she remained licensed, and the Minton’s did not know of her history. They only knew that she had been caring for children for years and seemingly had good recommendations.

On the day that 2-year-old Joshua died, the provider had taped his mouth shut with masking tape presumably because he was whiney. After Joshua died, the state revoked the provider’s license. She was charged and found guilty. Given her history of repeat violations cited in inspection reports, what does it take to close down a child care provider? Oklahoma changed its law. But, many other states allow repeated violations without revoking a license or prohibiting children whose care is paid for with a federal or state subsidy from attending. It’s time to ensure that children are safe in child care.

Hear the story of Joshua Minton.

Jacob’s Story

Avonda Fox of Texas suffered a horrific loss when her 4-year-old son, Jacob, died due to negligence by a child care center.  Jacob was left in a van for an unknown period of time in 103 degree heat. To elude police of guilt, Jacob’s body was placed at a local park.  When the child care provider was arrested, her fingerprints were taken and Fox learned that the woman caring for her children had an extensive criminal history, including assault and an arrest for theft.  Not only did the director have a criminal record, but many of the other employees did as well.

Based on Avonda’s advocacy efforts, the state of Texas passed a background check law for child care providers and also requires extra training for providers who transport children.  Nevertheless, in July of 2012, another child died in Texas as a result of being left in a child care van.  The federal law has no requirement for child care centers to have a transportation plan.  The state of Texas has a law, but it isn’t always followed.  Training can make a difference.  Regular inspections can make a difference.  Hear the story about Jacob from Avonda Fox. 

Reagan’s Story

Natalie Wolfe from Indiana did what many parents do when looking for child care.  Natalie and her husband asked family, friends and neighbors for recommendations.   They selected a provider to care for their two year old daughter as well as their newborn, 3-month-old daughter, Reagan.  Before placing their children in the care of this provider, they visited twice. They were happy with what they saw and expected their children to be safe.  The provider was unlicensed, but came with such good recommendations that Natalie and her husband felt comfortable selecting her to care for their children.  Reagan was 3 months old when she was found dead face-down on an adult bed in the provider’s home.  The provider had 10 children in her care the day that Reagan died, well over the limit which required a license in Indiana.

Training could have made a difference. Licensing could have made a difference. Regular inspections could have made a difference.  Hear the story about Reagan from Natalie Wolfe. 

 

Madelyne’s Story

Lawrence Hall from Ohio did what many parents do when looking for child care.  Lawrence and his wife asked family, friends and neighbors for recommendations.  They selected a provider for their first-born daughter, Madelyne.  The provider was unlicensed but the Halls felt comfortable because everyone told them that the caregiver had 15 years of experience and was great with children.  On the day that Madelyne was found dead at the provider’s in-home child care, her body was found trapped within a port-a-crib. The police investigation cited the provider for having too many children in her care that day to operate an unlicensed child care home.  During the trial, the provider admitted on the stand that she was very sorry. She just forgot about Madelyne that day.

Training could have made a difference. Licensing could have made a difference. Regular inspections could have made a difference.  Hear the story about Madelyne from Lawrence Hall. 

 

Nathan’s Story

Shelley and Steve Blecha from Missouri did what many parents do when looking for child care.  They asked family, friends and neighbors for recommendations.  They selected a provider for their first-born son.  When their second son was born, it made sense to keep the children together.  Nathan Blecha was 3 months old when the provider placed him on his stomach to sleep in a portable crib. She hadn’t turned on the light as there were other infants in the room already asleep.  The sheet had slipped off the crib pad and Nathan asphyxiated on the plastic. It turns out that there were too many children in her care the day that Nathan died.

 

Training could have made a difference. Licensing could have made a difference. Regular inspections could have made a difference. Hear the Blecha’s story.

Washington Auditor’s Report Finds Sex Offenders in Child Care

How important is it that child care providers have a background check?  On August 1, the Washington State Auditor’s Office released a report, Protecting Children from Sex Offenders in Child Care, Foster Care, and Schools.”  They conducted an audit within the state to determine if matching the state’s sex offender registry to information on child care and foster care providers and school employees would reveal results similar to Inspector General reports in other states (IL and KY come to mind).  The WA state auditor’s report found between 2002 and 2012:

    • 28 sex offenders lived in Department of Early Learning (DEL) or Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) regulated homes and 15 lived in state subsidized, but unlicensed, child care settings.
    • In 25 of the 28 cases, agency records indicated children were in care while sex offenders lived in the home.
    • In 9 of the 28 cases, sex offenders lived undetected in providers’ homes at the time of the audit.
    • In 24 of the 28 cases, sex offenders went undetected because providers failed to inform agencies that offenders lived in their homes. The remaining four cases involved the subsidized care program, Working Connections (their TANF program).  In these cases, offenders did not receive background checks and were able to live in the home because administrative rules did not address situations where the child and provider shared a home.

The state is working to correct the situation to ensure that children in child care safe.  Read the Washington Auditor’s report.

For more information about the importance of background checks to ensure that children are safe in child care, check out Child Care Aware® of America’s latest white paper: “Background Checks: It is Time to Protect Children.”

Background Checks Promote Children’s Safety in Child Care

Background checks for child care providers are essential to ensure that individuals who have a history of violent offenses are not licensed to provide child care or hired to work in a child care center.

Parents expect their children to be safe in child care. Many parents logically assume that background checks are required for licensed child care providers. The reality is that the logical assumptions of parents far exceed federal and state laws.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the federal law that allocates funds to states for child care and sets the parameters for state child care laws, does NOT require a background check for child care providers.

As a result, state background check requirements vary greatly, and few states require a comprehensive background check before granting a child care license to providers, hiring employees to work in a child care center, or allowing the receipt of a federal subsidy.

A comprehensive background check includes:

  • Checking Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records (which are based on fingerprints).
  • Using fingerprints to check state criminal history records.
  • Checking the child abuse registry.
  • Checking the sex offender registry.

Background Checks are Necessary to Protect Children

The vast majority of child care providers are well-meaning adults who love caring for children and who seek to protect their safety and overall well-being. At the same time, studies have shown that there are some individuals who may not share those goals or who may be a risk to the safety and well-being of children. A background check acts as a sieve to exclude those individuals who should not be in the business of caring for unrelated children.  Read Child Care Aware of America’s latest white paper: Background Checks:  It is Time to Protect Children.