In the United States, the high price of child care remains a burden on many American families, regardless of marital status and income. This is extremely troubling considering the benefits of high-quality child care to parents and caregivers and their children. On October 23, 2019 Child Care Aware® of America held a briefing on their annual report, US and the High Price of Child Care: An Examination of a Broken System, which details the price of child care across the country.

During the briefing, Renita Hill, a home-based family child care provider, shared her experiences caring for young children—stressing the high cost of providing quality care to her young learners. In addition to supporting the children and families in her care through the promotion of healthy child development through learning and play, Renita also described the stressors of being a small business owner and continuing her education and pursuing professional development in the child care field. Speakers representing Child Care Aware® of America detailed the methodology used in their report as well as some key findings and policy recommendations aimed at making child care more affordable and supporting the child care workforce.

By surveying state and local Child Care Research & Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs), the authors found that in the Midwest, Northeast, and the South, the price of full-time, center-based child care for two children exceeds the cost of other household expenses such as housing, college tuition, transportation, health care, and food. In the West, the cost of full-time, center-based child care for two children is only exceeded by the cost of housing. Additionally, the authors estimate that it would cost a single parent household 36 percent of their income to cover child care expenses, and a married couple more than ten percent of their income—well over the HHS recommendation of spending no more than seven percent of household income on child care.

In order to address the high price of child care without negatively impacting child care quality, the report finds that three underlying policy needs are required for substantive progress:

1. Improved data collection and analysis;
2. Enhanced parent and provider awareness; and
3. Strengthened financial mechanisms.

Current legislative proposals such as the Child Care for Working Families Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and in the House by Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), can address some of the policy recommendations outlined in the report. Specifically, the bill aims to reduce the cost of child care by ensuring that no family under 150 percent of state median income pays more than seven percent of their income on child care; supports universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all three- and four-year old’s; and significantly improves compensation and training for the child care workforce.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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