Report details burden of high child care costs

Idaho families frequently find themselves paying more in annual child care costs than they would for a year’s tuition at a state college, according to a new report by Child Care Aware of America. And in all regions of the United States, average fees for an infant in a child care center are more than the average amount that families spend on food and transportation combined.

The 2017 “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care” report, released this week, found that the average annual cost of child care for one Idaho infant can range from $6,500 for home-based care to nearly $7,400 for center-based care. And for two children – an infant and a 4-year-old, as an example – those costs can exceed $13,900 annually. As a point of comparison, the average year’s tuition at a state college is $6,800. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deems child care “affordable” at or below 7% of household income. In Idaho, married parents pay 10.7% of income for center-based infant care, and those costs jump to 33.1% of income for single parents. Married parents at the poverty line can see between 62% and 70% of their income going toward child care fees.

“A state preschool system could help alleviate some of the financial burden of child care for families, but Idaho does not offer state-funded preschool programs for 3- to 5-year-olds,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director for the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. “We have a lot of work to do to ensure that every Idaho family has access to affordable, high-quality child care and early learning.”

Here are some additional findings from the 2017 report:

  • An estimated $28.9 billion in wages is lost annually by working families who do not have access to affordable child care and paid family and medical leave. 
  • Adjusted for inflation, U.S. businesses lose approximately $4.4 billion annually due to employee absenteeism as the result of child care breakdowns.
  • Families in the United States are overburdened by the high cost of child care. About 60 percent of funding for child care in the United States comes directly from parents. In comparison, families pay only about 23 percent of the cost of a public college education, with the remainder subsidized by state and federal funds.
  • Providers aren’t paid enough to cover the high costs of child care for their own kids. In every state plus the District of Columbia, the cost of center-based care for two children costs more than half of average child care provider income.
  • 65% of parents’ work schedules are affected by child care challenges an average of 7.5 times over a six-month period.

The nonprofit Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) is dedicated to advancing Idaho’s early learning profession and advocating for children and families. The organization was founded in 1984 and is headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Learn more at idahoaeyc.org.

Child Care Aware® of America is based in Arlington, Va. The organization’s mission is to advance a child care system that effectively serves all families; supports children’s growth, development and educational advancement; and creates positive economic impact for families and communities. Learn more at usa.childcareaware.org.