Finding affordable child care is tough these days. In fact, the National Child Care Association said it’s become a crisis. The organization said parents are struggling to find affordable care as the industry’s workforce shrinks.
Many workers say the big issue is pay. One worker said her 17-year-old working at a coffee shop was making about the same as a childcare staffer with a master’s degree.
“And that’s difficult when you have the choice of working here and taking care of children. Or going to a fast food restaurant and getting the same kind of pay,” said Cynthia Barnes, the director of the Charlotte Child Development Center (CCDC) in North Carolina.
Out of over 1,000 occupations tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, child care worker salaries ranked 15th lowest as of 2021, which is the most recent data available. It’s making things tough for places like the CCDC.
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“It’s very difficult to keep care affordable when you are looking at raising entry-level pay as high as you have to do it to get people to come in the door and then stay,” Barnes said.
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“We see that parents and families are facing childcare prices that are too far out of reach,” said Anne Hedgepath, Chief of Policy and Advocacy for Child Care Aware of America, an organization that works with U.S. child care resources and referral agencies.
The most recent data from Child Care Aware says people are paying an average of more than $10,000 a year for child care. They say that’s a 5% increase over the previous year.
“There’s a real case here for additional public investment to help make sure that we can raise compensation for educators,” Hedgepath said.
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In August, President Biden signed the Chips and Science Act, which is mostly meant to boost U.S. manufacturing of semiconductor chips. But the bill also requires companies applying for federal money to have a plan to provide access to affordable child care for their workers. Hedgepath said the country needs more of this.
“Let’s get resources into the system. Just like we do with our schools. To make sure that we have enough supply to meet the demand,” she said.
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Some states, like North Carolina, are offering grants to help boost child care facilities. But those funds could run out before the end of the year, meaning child care may get even more expensive soon.