Once again, Massachusetts is among the states with the nation’s least affordable child care according to “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2011 Update,” from the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. NACCRRA measures affordability by comparing cost with the state’s median income. In addition, in straight dollar terms, full-time child care in Massachusetts is the most expensive of the 50 states.
More than 11 million children in the U.S. are in some form of early education and care each week, NACCRRA notes. “In 36 states, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s tuition and related fees at a four-year public college “In every state, center-based child care costs for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeded annual average rent payments,” NACCRRA finds, according to its news release. Nationally, overall costs increased 1.9% in centers and 1.8% in family child care homes between 2009 and 2010, but in Massachusetts costs decreased slightly. NACCRRA cautions that some states with relatively more affordable care also have less stringent regulations for quality.
Here are some highlights of NACCRRA’s findings for Massachusetts:
- The average 2010 cost for a full-time full-year center-based program for a 4-year-old runs $12,200 in the Bay State, compared with $13,158 in 2009, making it again the most expensive of the 50 states. The Massachusetts average cost in 2010 is 11.8% of median income for two-parent families. New York and Montana, at 12.1% of median income for two-parent families, are slightly less affordable. The Massachusetts average cost represents 45.6% of median income for single-mother families, making the commonwealth the least affordable of the 50 states for single-mother families.
- Cost varies by program type. For a 4-year-old enrolled full-time in a family child care home in Massachusetts, the annual cost averages $11,300, compared with $11,475 in 2009, the most expensive in the country in both 2010 and 2009. NACCRRA does not measure affordability of family child care.
- At $16,500 (16% of median income for a two-parent family), down from $18,773 in 2009, Massachusetts has the most expensive and least affordable full-time care for infants in center-based programs. The cost is 58.7% of the median income for single-mother families, also the least affordable among the 50 states.
- In Massachusetts, the average annual cost for an infant in family child care full-time is $12,100, up from $11,940 in 2009, the most expensive in the country.
“During the critical years of birth through age 5, 90% of a child’s brain is developed and essential learning patterns are established which affect school-readiness,” NACCRRA Executive Director Linda K. Smith says in the news release. “Children need to be safe in child care and they also need to be in a setting that promotes their healthy development or our early childhood policies undermine our school readiness goals. It is time for policymakers to recognize that connection. Children spend an average of 35 hours a week in child care which means child care is a key early learning program.”
NACCRRA makes a number of recommendations, including requiring the National Academy of Sciences “to study the true cost of quality care and to offer recommendations to Congress for financing to support quality options for parents.” The group also recommends adding requirements to improve quality to the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant program and requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a definition of minimally acceptable care for children from low-income families.