Money is key to quality child care
Experts say the cost of putting young children in a good program can cost $1,000 per month or more.
August 6th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Money is key to quality child care

By Barbara Hall, CNN

(CNN) - Sixty-four percent of mothers with children under the age of six work. That makes for a lot of kids in daycare. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends parents spend no more than 10% of their annual income on child care. But experts say putting a young child into a good program can cost $1,000 per month or more. That's on par with tuition at some public universities according to Theresa Prestwood with Quality Care for Children, which helps parents in Georgia find good childcare:

[1:39] "Unfortunately, it costs more to send an infant to child care than it does to send your child, just tuition, to Georgia Tech."

Paige McKay Kubik with the Atlanta-based child care organization, Sheltering Arms, says it's a serious predicament for many families:

[2:34] "Parents have been forced with some hard decisions. You know, do I pay for good quality child care, but then have a hard time figuring out how I'm going to put bread on the table? Or do I look for something that may be less stable, where people are not as qualified, not as experienced – but still be able to balance my budget? And that's a hard choice."

Each state in the U.S. runs its own subsidized child care program, but the funding has limits as states struggle to balance their budgets.  Carol Burnett with the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative says state subsidies are enormously beneficial to those who receive them:

[3:55] "The problem is there is not enough money in the program to serve all the families that qualify. Right now we've got about 13,000 children on the waiting list."

And as parents feel the pinch, some stop sending children to day care all together. Lynne Black is director of Little Leap Academy in Tupelo, Mississippi:

[4:20] "If you're in child care for a living right now it is going to be very, very, very, very difficult."

Black says she had to layoff four staff members in 2008 due to the recession.

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. mammaturtle2828

    I run a childcare center. I charge as little as I can to provide a safe place for children to be while their parents work. it is one of the lowest priced centers. And what parents pay BARELY covers what I need to pay my staff. We are funded from other sources. If you want QUALITY you have to be willing to pay enough so that the employees watching your child are not living in poverty themselves. otherwise, you get uneducated staff who may not be all that interested in taking care of your child. What you need to consider is that we have to pay for insurance for your child. We pay for the meals they take in the center. We pay for lights and heat/ AC ,and maintenance. we pay for the toys and materials. And we pay our staff. Who you should hope as a parent are educated in taking care of children, and want to be around them. And we have to do this with limited money, because some of us really don't want to gouge the parents. Its not just you're child we are providing for, its all the children in our care. and unfortunately the costs add up. Many of us barely make over poverty wages. So yes, its expensive for you to pay for your childcare. But it also expensive for us to provide it. And the well meaning ones who wish quality care, really are trying to balance both needs without hurting the parents too much.

    August 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kim

    Thank you for an informed and thoughtful article. It is expensive to offer quality and currently most estimates of what quality would cost do not include ECE professionals earning a living wage, let alone a professional wage. ECE is one of the lowest paid professions in the US. Here is the link: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588577.pdf

    I write a blog (http://theeceadvocate.blogspot.com/2012/04/are-tuition-rates-too-low-to-fund.html) and have written on this topic frequently, but would love to see more news stories of this quality on the topic. Thank you again!

    August 10, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. adam

    Money is the key to everything in America. If you don't have LOTS of money you are screwed. Everyone knows that.

    August 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sport Memorabilia

    Thank you for every other informative site. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal method? I have a mission that I'm simply now running on, and I have been at the glance out for such information.

    August 8, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. TheHenry

    Interesting report. It is unfortunate that child care has been privatized in this format. Here's an interesting map I found that shows the size and distribution of America's population that is at or below the poverty level based on US Census Data:


    Just thought this was interesting...

    August 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rudy

    People forget that when you bring that little person into the world, you are now responsible for it. You want quality care for your child? Provide it! Raise your children, you owe them that.

    I understand the debate of can a woman have a career and be a mother. Sure, but what gets neglected? It's not the career. All you are doing is having a child and having someone else raise it for you. Sorry to be blunt, but it's the truth. The child suffers in the end.

    Your child did not ask to be born, you made them so take care of them. If you are not willing to make the sacrifice, well don't have children.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. newsbarbara

    This is Barbara Hall – the reporter who posted this story. I hope everyone listened to the audio. I'm wondering if anyone reading this post has received state subsidies for child care. What was your experience?

    August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ralph M

    Money is the key to everything in the US. Been that way forever.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Momtrepreneur

    As a quality center based child care provider ,I need to add my 2 pennies worth.. In home care is less regulated than center based care.Center based care greater associated cost vs In home. The tuition you pay each week helps to cover rent,utilities,staff benefits,staff vacations, staff pay,equipment replacement ,suppiles, continuing education for staff, snacks, cirriculum add ons and the ver rising cost of Insurance. Most center based care facilities are open on average 11.5 hours per day. Most children attend 10 to 11 hours per day. You are paying on average between $4.50 to $8.00 per hour for a person to care, educated and keep your child safe. Is this too high of a price? I have my facilities in PA and try to get a person to work for under $10.00 per hour. Degreed staff start at $15.00 per hour. The Gov has us tightly regulated that .58 cents out of every dollar goes to staff costs. The rest goes toward expenses. Some of us actually care and try to not gouge parents. But, we also need to make an income to help support our families. Is that wrong? The major chains gouge big time with extra fees for everything if you attend one of those you get what you deserve.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Becky

      $4.50 to $8 an hour for quality care? Is that "too high of a price". Ask your people who make $15 per hour if they can afford 1/2 of their wage per hour for daycare? And by the time taxes are taken out you may be paying 3/4 of your hourly for care. Would you be able to survive with only 1/4 of your paycheck? I understand that it takes money to run a facility. I used to be a licensed care provider. However, to ask if that is too much for quality care is unfair. Every parent wants quality care for their child whether it is $1 per hour or $15 per hour. But to expect all people to be able to work and pay care and budget for the other necessities gets harder and harder everyday.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. Poltergiest

    Thank you cnn for de-mystifying the link between quality and cost.

    August 7, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. husbandofprovider

    My wife has been doing quality licensed childcare in our home for 24 years. She was able to make a modest income while raising our three children into adulthood. Her first practice is that if somone calls enquiring about care and the first question they ask is how much do you charge..She is not interested. If the parents are shopping for price and not quality...she does not want them as a client. We have dealt with bounced checks, late pickups, "forgot the checkbook" and everyother rude parental behavior you can imagine. Before you judge see what a provider does in fact provide– a clean, healthy, educational and fun environment with projects, fieldtrips, parties etc is a start. Between all of the holidays, birthday parties, field trips etc we spent nearly $28,000 last year alone. Thats about half of her income right back into the children in her care. That is not taking into account the added utilities of being home all day with heat/air conditioner and 3 loads of dishes. In her contract she gets 10 personal paid days a year. You get vacation don't you?? and by the way....she has been sick once in 24 years where she was not able to open that day. With our children gone, it feels like we live in a business not a home. I can't wait until retirement!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. blueskybutterfly

    I cut back to 1/2 time when my son was born so I could maintain our healthcare coverage and not lose ground professionally. But last year I had to return to full time employment because after childcare and healthcare costs, I was making less than $1,000 a month. When I returned to full time, we found our childcare expenses went up from $6000 to $7200 a year. But as smaller chunk of our budget and with the full allotment for healthcare by my employer, I effectively tripled my paycheck, making it worth it financially. However, we are stopping with one child because of the expense of childcare and the stress of how hard it was to get back to full time after just 3 years of half time employment.
    FYI: There is a dependent daycare pre-tax option for up to $5,000 (IRS national average) a year that all working parents should consider, but depending on where you are (like us), it may not be enough to reimburse all your expenses. You can have it taken out of your paycheck, pre-tax, and then submit a reimbursement form. It is a real bother, but the truth is that it "hurts" less because it comes out before tax, making it have less impact on your net paycheck....

    August 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Graceanne

    We're just figuring this out now????? If we did a cost analysis we wouldn't have children. But we don't.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cat

    Please folks - CHILDcare (the 'day' will take care of itself). Anyone seen how much insurance is for a child care provider? It is NOT cheap. With one friend, her childcare provider is closed 2 weeks in summer (she has to pay and find other care); 2 weeks at Christmas (yes she pays and has to find other care). But as she said, she knew it was one of the best in her town so she made the sacrifice as a single mom with no child support from baby daddy.

    I saw a sign out in front of a child care place the other day $85/week. So gotta keep those britches closed until the budget has been evaluated.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. heeeey

    In the Sikh culture parents build monster homes with multiple suites for their kids, who eventually marry and live with the parents who become built in daycare and all the incomes go into the one household. Then usually one of the kids buys another house and starts it all over again. Its a good way to save a ton of money and become property rich...IF you can handle your parents/kids

    August 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Dee

    This is in response to the comment about not working when the children are young...
    I quit my full-time job after having my son. I was a lab manager/ research associate. When my son was almost 3, I started teaching biology classes at the local community college, just about 5 hours a week. We didn't have to pay for daycare because I could depend on family and I often was assigned evening classes. Once my son started kindergarten, I looked for a full-time research job, but sadly, I'd been out of the job market too long to compete. This despite having an MS, prior experience and my name on 4 journal publications. I finally got lucky at a biotech startup where I know I am being paid less than market rate for my education and experience. If I had to do it again, I would have worked, at least part-time, since we could have paid for daycare. So to those women who leave the job market for a few years to raise kids, be prepared to virtually start over when you want to go back into the work force.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  17. mama

    Parents... do a cost analysis of the bottom line dollar amount of your secondary wage-earner verses staying at home until the child(ren) are fulltime school-aged. It is surprising how many parents pay to work. Yes, raising children can be expensive. HOWEVER, common sense, budgeting, frugal living will help alleviate most of the financial pinch. daycare centers vs. in-home daycare vs. SAHM/Ds are a matter of priority. Children do grow-up and move out eventually.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  18. krehator

    Its price gouging. No nicer way to put it.

    August 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • cat

      krehator–child care providers have to make a living at even minimum wage it would be tough–good thing that their children are probably in school -

      with one friend of mine, SHE makes the bigger salary and I mean big–so her husband stays home with the kids during the day and he's attending college in the evening working on his masters for later in their lives.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  19. pmn

    It amazes me how much daycare is right now. Yet the IRS lowers the claim for child care every year and those rates should be going up. No wonder there are so many at home daycares charging as much as child care center. The problem with home daycares..unreliability, you pay them for a vacation, they quit on you leaving scrambling, when their kids sick who do you have to watch your child and you still pay them??!!. I would suggest any new moms DO NOT do home daycares. You might as well have a nanny!! I found a wonderful church fulltime daycare. It was a blessing, they were very clean and the staff was loving and prepped my daughter for daycare. Now 10 years ago I paid for two children to be in daycare for less than $625.00/mo. I pay now. If you can afford to stay home for 4 years, that's what I would do especially if you have more than 1 child then pre-k part time or full time.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • pmn

      *Kindergarten not daycare 😛

      August 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  20. krehator

    The childcare industry is bleeding pockets of parents dry. I can't keep count of the number of horror stories I have heard, and witnessed.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  21. jack

    Wow! It takes a study to tell people that kids are expensive. How about people remember that before they have them. Those that can afford quality childcare actually waited to have kids until they could afford them. If you're working at Walmart, perhaps it's better not to have 4 kids you can't afford to care for and feed. The US needs a one child policy. China has the right idea.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • krehator

      You're right, only the rich should have children (roll eyes).

      Your logic ensures that it will continue to get more expensive. You think they are going to lower prices if only well off people have kids?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • steve

        NO. but waiting untill finances are better, more education or trade school. starting off having kids at age 20 with a minimum wage or just above that hourly rate is starting in a deep hole. If you can't save a few grand in the bank, no need to start having kids.

        August 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
        • cat

          I remember when I graduated high school in 1966; most of us were for 'zero population growth' which meant you replaced you and spouse and a lot of my friends chose adoption of either an older child or from another country. A high school friend's daughter and son in law have adopted and she's taken a leave for now–whether she'll return to the work place they don't know but their home is paid off (married 4 years) because they bought modestly and both had saved prior to their very modest wedding and I mean VERY modest wedding. I think it was in the groom's parents back yard with just immediate family and rented dress/tux

          August 6, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • don'tworryaboutit

      That's a very heartless and ill-informed statement. For starters, you truely want government "regulating" who is allowed to have children and base that on their income as well? Your mad. Your balance sheet has nothing to do with your quality as a parent nor does it make you "worthy" of the role.
      There are plenty of people who waited to have children later and that work better paying jobs than minimum wage like Walmart and the fact is that child care is still too expensive. The overall cost on inflation on every service and product on the market is currently far more bloated than the standard of paying income from employers. The government still bases their ranking of "the poverty level" on payscales and family sizes from the 1970's so everyone's perspective of the blaring fact is so far off it's not even funny! On average pay rates for most positions have NOT increased with the rise in inflation for the past 20+ years and now it's comming to a head that family's have to make ridiculious choices just to get by.
      And then we have people like you. A ravonous vulture devoid of feeling, understanding or clear realistic thought when it comes to your fellow, struggling Americans. All you can do is sit in your high tower, point a finger and judge everyone around you. And don't feel complemented that I chose you to berete, there is plenty of your ilk on this forum and in my day to day schedule. I just felt like responding to one of you jack @sses this fine Monday.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • don'tworryaboutit

        This was in response to "Jack"

        August 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • pmn

      Well, this isn't China its America. Everyone has their rights. There are many people who work it out and most stop at one kid then wait until the child goes into K then have another child spreading them out. Most people have the common sense to realize the expense of child care. You should never or even throw out an idea to limit people to one child. I have three and spaced out quite a few years in between. I have been a career mom all my life and doing just fine. Who are you to judge people? One thing is for sure..these kiddos grow up so the expense doesn't last forever.

      August 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • pmn

        and this also @jack.

        August 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • xshorty87x

      China also forces you to have an abortion if you decide to have another child without paying the "second child" fine. Sure, lets be more like China. It's obvious that people should wait to have children until they can afford it, but are you really going to deny someone who would actually fit the "perfect parent" model a baby just because they work at Walmart. You sir, are a bigot.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      It isn't that kids are just "expensive". It is excessive. Up to $1k a year? That is a lot of money regardless. Just like the article says, it is close to a college tuition. A family of two making around $50 or $60 a year are still subject to minimum child care services with those types of rates. The issue is how to deflate it, the same as health care. Maybe we should only allow rich people health care and tell the poor to avoid areas where accidents can happen. Stairs are now off limits, go get a one story foam shack or pay the price of life right?

      August 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • mommy2ee

      What a profoundly stupid statement! China does not have the right idea – the "one child" policy is rooted in the belief that a male child is superior. A female child is expensive since she will require a dowry upon marriage. To this day, this modern "powerhouse" forces women to abort second pregnancies. All to often baby girls are dumped in the street simply for being girls. Is that really the kind of country you want to idolize? Shame on you...

      August 8, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  22. Grey

    Wow, who'd a thought that you can buy higher quality product with more money?

    August 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  23. sumday

    unless you have a job that pays well it is not worth it to work. Avg cost per hr around here for day care is 6-8/hr/per child, average pay 10-12/hr BEFORE taxes. After taxes, ect are taken out you end up paying someone else to raise your own kid so you can work for a take home pay of about 3/hr.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  24. chregr

    ugh quality daycare does not nessesarily require a 'program' I worked in daycare centers and saw the kind of 'care' they provide. I prefer in home daycare by a person that actually cares about my child.

    August 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |