Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new report from Child Care Aware has found that a year of daycare in some areas can cost more than it would to send that child to college. For example, the average annual cost of daycare in Massachusetts is $16,549, the report said.
The report also found that infant child care costs double the amount average families commit to food, and surpasses transportation costs in nearly every part of the United States. For those families with two children, daycare expenses in 23 states and Washington DC surpass the typical housing expenses for homeowners with a mortgage.
If this information comes as a shock, you aren’t alone. Around 75 percent of parents in a Care.com survey released earlier this year admitted they were not prepared for child care costs and 42 percent said they didn’t budget for these costs.
Donna Levin, co-founder of Care.com, told Time Magazine reporter Jackie Zimmermann that parents should start saving and budgeting for child care the moment they know they’re expecting. She added that parents of newborns should also consider cutting back on their hours if possible and talk with the employer’s HR department to see if any child care benefits might be available.
“A lot of great employers are providing child care subsidies or discounts to childcare centers,” Levin said.
She added that new parents should also look into networking with other parents, either online or through their network of friends and family, and try to set up play date or the sharing of care costs and responsibilities.
For example, a group of parents can pool funds together to hire a nanny – which she referred to as a “nanny share.” Levin added that a network of parents can also come in handy if emergency or unexpected situations crop up.
Something like, “If you watch my kids while I do errands, I’ll watch yours after school,” can benefit everybody involved, Levin says. Kids benefit from this situation by developing social skills with their peers and “they’re just one big play date.”
On the other side of the child care equation are the people providing the actual services and care to children. Although a daycare bill rivals that of college tuition, individuals that provide these services are typically not paid the same as the average college professor.
“Quality, affordable child care provides critical support to our nation’s workforce and is one of the earliest learning settings our children will enter,” said Lynette Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America. “It’s time to address the disparity between high child care costs and low provider wages, and find a solution to what has become a crisis.”
The Child Care Aware report noted that placing a child in a quality learning environment in their earliest years can set them up for a lifetime of success, as several studies have already shown.