Parents battle increasing child care costs

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – As she unloaded her two grandchildren to walk them into an Indianapolis day care center, Paula White said she knows paying for quality care isn’t easy.

“It definitely is an issue,” she said. “It’s hard to make ends meet when you’re paying so much for child care.”

It’s harder now more than ever. The Pew Research Center recently found average weekly child care expenses for families with working moms rose by more than 70 percent from 1985 to 2011. In the last year, Child Care Aware of America reports the cost of childcare has increased at up to eight times the rate of increases in family income. In 31 states, the group said it’s more expensive to send your infant to a child care center than it is to send your older child to a four-year state college or university.

Michelle Noth McCreedy, director of public policy for Child Care Aware of America, said there are a lot of reasons for the increase including inflation and the cost of doing business, like overhead, utilities, equipment and materials.

“Tuition barely covers it,” said McCreedy.

In Indiana, Child Care of America said the cost of full-time care was $6,448 for a 4-year-old, $5,759 for school-aged children, and $8,073 for infant care. Indiana is more affordable than most other states.

But Jaime Barb, a new mom, said it’s still a challenge.

“It’s about half my paycheck,” she said, referring to child care costs. “We tried to think about the ‘stay at home’ thing but the (other) half of my paycheck is obviously useful with student loans … so basically half of it’s day care, half of it’s student loans.”

In two-parent homes, more moms are choosing to stay home, more than any time in the last two decades, according to Pew.

“We actually had one parent do the math on their hourly wage and found out that they would be making $1.50 an hour more by working instead of staying home with their three children, so decided to stay home,” said McCreedy.

Child Care Aware of America said other parents rely on family members, some moms and dads work opposite shifts, and others seek financial help through local or state agencies. Subsidies include the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant, Social Services Block Grant and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund.

In November 2013 Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration announced it would make an additional $23 million available to low-income Hoosiers to cover child care expenses in 2014. According to FSSA records, 23,809 families and 44,145 children are authorized for a voucher through the Child Care and Development Fund. An FSSA spokesperson said while there is a wait list for this kind of assistance, it was “greatly decreased” with the transfer of additional funds last fall.

Private assistance is also available at certain facilities through scholarships and sliding fee scales.

McCreedy said it’s critical parents don’t just look at the cost of child care when choosing where to send their children.

“Make sure even if the cost looks good, you’re looking at quality too,” she said. “Make sure the program is licensed, child care providers are CPR and first-aid trained and providers have a criminal background check.”

 Click here to find a licensed child care center and for more information on financial assistance.

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