As I can remember, before and after COVID, pricing has been a topic of conversation that riddled parents with fear of having to step away from a career or relocate to be closer to family, where parents would depend on help.
The pandemic, however, did shine a light on this issue that is important to many of us working parents.
“Finding affordable, quality child care shouldn’t be hard. For far too long, the United States has put the burden of paying for child care exclusively on the shoulders of working families, despite the great stake that employers and the economy have in guaranteeing that families can access care. And while families across incomes and geographic locations continue to face high costs of care and education, child care remains an industry where programs operate on shoestring budgets, and in most states, early educators continue to make poverty wages. It’s an equation that doesn’t add up.” Source
Calculating the hidden cost of interrupting a career for childcare.
“The how and why behind CAP’s child care cost calculator, which helps determine the financial cost of choosing between full-time work and full-time care.
To help families calculate the financial costs of interrupting a career so a parent can become a full-time caregiver, the Center for American Progress has developed a simple, customizable interactive tool. The single most important contribution this tool makes, and the most important lesson for families using the tool, is placing these financial tradeoffs in the economic framework of opportunity costs, or costs people incur when they lose out on potential gains.” Source
We spoke with The JuneCare.co to help better inform us about this crisis.
Why are American Families struggling with Childcare costs?
JUNECARE: American families are struggling with the current childcare costs for several reasons:
Inflation – prices for food, gas, and other goods have increased faster than they have since the early 1980s and despite rising costs across the board, childcare remains one of the biggest expenses working families face, with average costs exceeding $10,000 per year. The cost of childcare is outpacing inflation by more than 3%, meaning that parents need to stretch their dollars further than ever before to even afford basic needs such as food, fuel, and…reliable childcare.
The growing gap between average household income childcare costs – The current childcare costs, on average, equal 10% of the median income for a married couple, and more than 35% percent of the median income for a single parent, according to Fortune.To put that into context, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that parents spend no more than 7% of their household income on child care. As a result of this gap, often parents cannot afford to work. “By the time working mothers pay for childcare, they are often breaking even or barely bringing home a profit, so it is hard to justify spending that time away from their children for very little reward,” said June Care Founder Gretchen Salyer.
Families need more flexible options – One positive thing that came from the pandemic was more companies offering flexible work schedules and work from home options. As a result, parents don’t always need full time childcare and many childcare centers require long-term contracts and full time commitments, which don’t work for the new world we’re living in. Working parents now need more flexible childcare solutions that they can design to fit their life, whether they work full-time, part-time or anything in between, allowing them to save costs on childcare by having part-time options vs. having to pay for and commit to full-time at a traditional childcare center. June Care was created to fill in the gaps that exist with current childcare solutions by allowing parents to have more flexible options, since we know not all work days end promptly at 5 p.m. and not everyone works a 9-5, Mon-Fri schedule.
How is the pricing of Child care decided on?
J: All childcare providers set their own rates, but much of it is determined by the cost of living in the geographic area, along with other factors such as cost of rent/overhead for childcare facilities, pay rates for employees, insurance costs, etc. Generally speaking, a daycare or childcare center is less expensive than a nanny or Au Pair, and a nanny share typically falls in the middle. At June Care, we match families with stay-at-home parents who can help with care for their kids. All our “host” parents have their own kids present, which allows them to price themselves more affordably than a nanny, since they are not having to pay someone else to watch their children while they work. We strive to make our service accessible to all families by allowing our hosts to set their own hourly rates and schedules so families can browse and select a host that meets their needs and budget.
Learn more about the June Care Co.:
June Care Co. Rising Costs Article
Our next conversation is with stay-at-home mom, Marlie Rosenberg. She was faced with making this personal decision and shares her personal insight:
What are the costs of Childcare you kept coming across while during your research as a Parent before deciding to stay home?
MARLIE: I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home parent. I did not, however, want to be a full time stay-at-home parent. I always assumed that I would continue to work in some capacity when becoming a mother. When I found out I was pregnant, the second person I told, after my husband, was the director of my favorite childcare facility in my city. I taught both of her children in my kindergarten classroom and after research, before even trying to become pregnant, I knew that is where I would want to trust with taking care of my children. Waitlists for childcare, no matter the level, in my city are very long. Reaching out to the director at 6 weeks pregnant to ask to place our future child on the list for part time resulted in me finding out that the childcare situation in Salt Lake City is less than desirable. She informed me that I would not be able to place my future child on a list unless he was full time. They were unable to place any part time students on lists because of the demand. Unless I was able to find someone who would start at the same time on the opposite days, I would not be able to even put my future child on the list.
Not only is it impossible to find a reputable childcare facility that has an open spot for infants, but the cost of childcare would also be around the same cost of my take home pay as a teacher. I would be working just to pay for childcare.
Without trying to sound pompous, another “cost” was the quality of care my children would receive. I was a former childcare teacher before becoming a kindergarten teacher and there are amazing childcare teachers in the world, but I knew that I would be a better teacher to my children. I have the same credentials as a childcare teacher and more. The biggest issue was the high turnover rate of childcare teachers.
When did you decide it would make sense for you to stay at home?
M: My husband and I made the decision that I would stay home with our first child full time after we calculated finances and calculated the strain childcare would put on our relationship. My husband’s work requires that he travels, and he is out of town frequently. We knew that if I oversaw all the daycare-shuffle alone I would become very resentful. Working all day teaching other children then coming home to do all the household chores alone would be a huge strain on our marriage. We are transplants in Salt Lake City; we have no family to help or support us. If we were still in Pittsburgh, where both sets of grandparents live, I believe I would still be working. Every family dynamic is different, and this is what works for us. I know how fortunate I am to even have the option to stay at home with my boys.
Has putting work aside to stay home put your family in financial adversity or help?
M: I am no stranger to working hard. Since my freshman year of college, I have always worked two jobs all the way up to when I left teaching. I have waited tables, worked in retail, and worked as a lead teacher in childcare to help finance my Masters. When I started working as a kindergarten teacher I started to create and sell my own curriculum (my Masters is in Curriculum and Instruction.) I continue to have my hand in several pots while being a stay-at-home mom. I have an active social media where I collaborate and work with large brands. Financially, I break even. When you calculate what childcare would be for two children and subtract it from a teacher’s salary, I make about the same amount of money.
I also know that I do not want to be a stay-at-home parent forever. I anticipate that I will return to work when my youngest begins school. It is impossible to see the future, but if the past two years have taught me anything, keeping my options open with being a stay-at-home parent has been very beneficial for my family. My oldest has started preschool, and since September 2nd, he has missed 12 days of school due to illness. If I was still teaching, I would have been out of sick days and personal days by the end of October. Our society does not leave room for parents and children. I am aware of the extreme privilege I have by being flexible to care for my children without worrying about my career.
Learn more about Marlie Rosenberg:
Curriculum to the Core – Facebook
Another amazing mom we spoke with is Dani Morin, who urges parents to do their due diligence in selecting a trusted provider.
Tell us about yourself, your mission, and experience in Day Care child safety?
DANI: In 2016, my son was strangled by a defective baltic amber teething necklace at his daycare. No one seemed to know what had happened. The Fire Chief said had they been there even a few minutes earlier, he would be alive. It was later found out that the childcare center was 4 times over the limit of children they were supposed to have; 6 kids, 2 of which were infants. They were well into the 20s and more than 6 were infants. They were found guilty of child abuse after cellphone text messages to the boss show that they did not call 911 or do CPR when they found him; instead, worrying about hiding the children they were not allowed to have there.
It took his tragedy for me to really look into the childcare system. At the time, I found in California that the facilities only had a mandatory check by CDSS every 5 years and whenever childcare centers got caught watching too many kids due to selfish greed, all they got was a $200 fine. The funny thing is that it only stays on the record for 3 years, so technically by the time they got another violation, their record was wiped clean anyway. We have since changed this and they are back to an annual facility check; even still, they don’t really follow through. Apparently, COVID is still running rampid in their eyes and they can’t visit. The Department of Social Services in California, as we all know, is the worst in the country and this is just a fact. They are the laziest, and they get paid the least. The turnover is extremely high. They honestly could care less about children and the fact that we have the most deaths by childcare in the country shows this to be true. My son’s daycare for instance had actually been shut down multiple times and all they had to do was rent another house to run the business out of. You see the license follows around an address, not the caregiver. Scary, right? Not only that, but a childcare center, such as a kiddie academy, has a license number for each age range. So let’s say a childcare worker was found guilty of hitting a toddler or sexual misconduct: only the kids under that license need to be informed that these things happened. The Department of Social Services also has a 90 day investigative window. So in my son’s situation, the police at this point had arrested the caretakers before CDSS actually shut them down. They continued to watch kids between their prison sentences because the CDSS was still “investigating”, which is truly scary when it comes to certain issues which you can use your imagination. This is why we see so many deaths.
I also looked into the quality of care and affordability, and found that a single mom like me could never afford quality daycare, yet I made $300 too much per year to qualify for a stipend to a better facility. So, I forked over 3/4ths of my paycheck to negligent childcare and had to live with my family to get by. This is a big issue in the United States.
What Advice can you share with parents when it comes to childcare costs and selection of a provider?
D: Parents are not going to get around the cost issue; we have yet to find a solution. Fortunately, the Trump administration found this to be a major issue, so they added 50 million on top of the yearly ask. This put a dent in getting more funding for parents in need; but again, this was just a dent. There was another opportunity this year for the Biden administration to dedicate funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to go to childcare. The administration dedicated $0 to childcare. Not even $1; nothing. It is unfortunate. So for this I think parents are looking at if having both parents work is even an option because not all parents have it. We need to provide affordable, quality, and safe care for all. I recommend parents find three options in their area that have availability. They need to do a full facility check. I have a 10 minute video on how to do this on the CDSS website. Also, I have a checklist for parents to take into each facility they visit. I recommend moms and dads utilize Child Care Aware to ask questions or recieve help or funding when finding a provider. And remember a yelp review does not count as a facility check.
How can parents learn about measures they can take and the power they have to become better informed when it comes to concerns they may have?
D: They need to go to childworks and sign up to become an advocate where you can reach out to your congressperson. I have had the chance to get in front of many congress people and share my story. We need more advocates so connect with ChildCare Aware and sign up, even if it means calling or emailing (they will guide you on how to do this).
Learn more about Dani Morin: