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Child Care Is Expensive, but Is It Expensive Enough?

It costs so much!

Child care is expensive. So very, very expensive.hand imprint art waitlist I should know, as I am paying tuition for two at the moment. What’s more: I am in the Washington, DC, area which is apparently the most expensive place in the country to pay for child care. Let me explain some of the things that I could pay for with that money:

  • Another mortgage (housing is also ridiculous in the DC area)
  • A luxury car, or two (high-end ones at that)
  • College tuition 
  • … anything else $1000+ per kid per month can buy

This is backed up by headlines around the world, some spurred by the new NACCRRA study update:

Yes, but should child care cost more?

Parents I know also acknowledge that childcare staff have an incredibly important, and often challenging job. My wife and I can be exhausted at the end of a Saturday after two of us chase two kids (a 1:1 ratio). Every day, teachers are engaging our kids and many others, with at least a 3:1 ratio of kids to teachers.

If I polish off my Econ minor, I also find the extensive waiting lists at many centers amazing. This is what economists would call “excess demand”, with more people wanting the service than what is available in the market. This would indicate that a rise in price is warranted. (Of course, there are larger issues at play, and affordable child care is critical to a quality workforce).

It is worth it.

Sure, I could in theory drive my Porsche to my vacation home every weekend. That doesn’t hold nearly the value to me as knowing that my kids are being cared for and challenged in a safe environment. Most parents I know feel the same way. Sometimes we have to watch our budget, but we never consider trimming childcare expense.

 What do you think? Is your childcare center charging too little?

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9 Comments
  1. I do not have a child care centr. I have a service to assist working parents when their children are sick and cannot go to school Those that are lucky to have a job need child care so they can stay at work. Many parents are not able to afford daily child care. These are the parents on the other side of the spectrum.
    My solution is to have a child care savings account through their job, i.e. an IRA account where they can put away $10.00 – $20.00 every other week or so into the fund. Maybe the employers would match it or contribute. This way there would be enough money to pay for the sitter when the need arises Employers, employees – your comments.

    • We hear you. I could be wrong but, I thought a parent could pay for child care through a Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) that some employers offer. However, the regulations covering these accounts are constantly changing and I find it difficult to follow what you can spend on year-to-year with these pre-tax accounts. Sometimes competitive employers match pre-tax funding up to a certain threshold, but it is never enough to cover child care completely as well as the medical care for children.

      Flexible and urgent child care solutions like the one you offer/mention are a critical piece of the child care puzzle.

  2. What I think would be interesting is to see the books of these national day care center chains and see where the money is going. It is certainly not to teachers or their assistants. They do not understand that teachers are their most valuable asset.

    There are childcare centers that manage to keep teachers year after year. What are they doing right?

    • Sometimes I wish I was an accountant and get an insider view on the books of different business like child care centers or even my local coffee shop. No doubt there is room for greater efficiency in child development centers. Like most enterprises, there are probably a lot of hidden costs that I never think about (e.g., liability insurance).

      Despite significant training, experience, and certifications, day care center teachers are at the very bottom of the pay spectrum for sure. It’s a good question that I would like to learn more about as we meet with administrators and teachers. My guess is the teachers who are staying year after year have a greater input in the management of the center and the curriculum.

      Thank you for the comment.

  3. As a careprovider it sadens me when I have parents who think I am a babysitter and they think when they are short on a bill or need to help a family member or friend with money I am the first one they ask to skip a payment, but the child comes to my child care in expensive name brand clothing. I don’t shop at name brand stores for my own kids. I do pre school and I educate their children and all I here is give me a break. I am at the low end of the rate scale. There are times when I am just scraping by. I work hard for what I do and parents are out of touch at what is important for thier children. Not cloths or expensive toys but real quality child care from care providers who care and love the children they care for. I understand the economy and times are hard that is why I lowered my rates, but at times I feel I am deeply unapreciated at what I do. I am now raising my rates because I am worth the quality care and education I give my pre schoolers. I agree with your opinion on childcare and thank you for sharing.
    DAwn

    • Dawn,

      I can understand how that behavior would be very upsetting. To add insult to injury, parents delaying or missing payments for your valuable service is definitely not cool (especially for something that should be as high of a priority as quality child care.) I hope you can keep your head up and that parents recognize the lengths you are going to provide a safe and educational environment for their children.

      Thank you for being open.

      -Jeff

    • Dawn,
      AMEN!!!…I am also in the same boat…it is ridiculous HOW much I have lowered my rates & STILL having extreme problems even enrolling children, much less “making ends meat”!!!…it’s CRAZY!..& yes seems all parents care about these days is “who/where is the CHEAPEST” NOT the QUALITY of care!…Very, very sad…

      • Michelle – I think it is all over the map. Some parents are very focused on either cost or quality. I am sure it is a combination of their financial situation and their values. In any case, this whole discussion seems to underscore the importance of quality, affordable childcare in communities.

        • Ben,
          I guess to rephrase my earlier post…I have been a Lic FCCH for 9yrs & previous to that was in “centers” for 5yrs…I worked in centers from “mom & pop” owned centers to “corp. owned” centers & every “center” I worked in always had an “issue” I did not agree with or policies (even Licensing) were not followed! THAT is why I became a Lic Family Care Home. FCCH’s used to receive more $$ due to the limited ratio 6:1 which IS more 1 on 1 & I feel much better quality (from the 2yr room I was previously in w/22:3 ratio! No “learning” just chaos control!) Now my rates are back down to as low as when I started 9yrs ago & still can’t “compete” w/centers!…in all, I KNOW it comes down to the “affordable quality” but @ least in my area I don’t see parents choosing the QUALITY over PRICE!…sorry

          Michelle

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