by Stephanie Robinson, Intern,
National Women's Law Center
It used to be that parents had to start saving for their children's college funds when their children were young. Now, parents may have to start saving for a child care fund before their children are even born. On Tuesday, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies released a study revealing that, in 40 states, the average annual cost of child care for an infant is greater than a year's tuition and fees at a four-year public college. In the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, and Wyoming, the average cost of child care was more than double the average cost of college tuition. Low-income parents already struggling to afford basic necessities for their families cannot afford these costs without help.
As child care costs continue to rise, it is essential that states continue to expand assistance to help low-income families pay for child care. However, as a result of the economic downturn and budget shortfalls, many states are instead cutting funding for child care assistance programs and only providing it to the neediest families. But without assistance to afford the care they need to work, low-income parents may be unable to keep their jobs and gain financial stability. Alternatively, parents may have to resort to lower-quality and less reliable (but more affordable) care that does not promote children's development and learning.
Without more federal funding for child care, the states already cutting their child care programs may make additional cuts, and other states may follow, leaving low-income parents with few options. Just as the cost of college should not keep young people from getting the higher education they need to succeed, the cost of child care—which is often even more expensive—should not keep young children from getting the early learning experiences they need to succeed.