The annual report on the cost of child care is out, and once again Massachusetts has the highest average annual costs in the nation for both 4-year-olds and infants in full-time, center-based care. The commonwealth is also among the most expensive states for family child care, ranking fourth most expensive for infants behind New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and second behind New York for 4-year-olds.
Fees in 2011 for a 4-year-old in Massachusetts average $11,669 a year in a center-based program and $9,496 with a family child care provider, according to “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report” – by Child Care Aware of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies). Fees for a Bay State infant average $14,980 in a center and $9,346 in family child care.
Although costs are down slightly from 2010, when center-based care averaged $16,500 for an infant and $12,200 for a 4-year-old, the report still counts Massachusetts among the 10 least affordable states for center-based care. The report calculates affordability by analyzing the cost of child care as a percentage of each state’s median income for two-parent families.
The relatively high cost of living and relatively high licensing standards in Massachusetts combine to make child care here particularly expensive. In Massachusetts and across the country, much of the cost of early education and care is borne by high fees for parents and low wages for early educators.
The annual cost for center-based child care exceeds a year’s in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public college in 35 states and the District of Columbia, the report finds. And center-based care for two children – a 4-year-old and an infant – is higher than the average annual rent in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“Child care today is simply unaffordable for too many families. This is not a low-income issue. Families at nearly every income — except for the very wealthy — struggle with the cost of child care,” Ollie M. Smith, Child Care Aware’s interim executive director, said in a news release. “Affordability is important because for many families, the cost affects the settings they are able to choose. Parents want quality care. They want their children to be safe. But, too many families struggle with the cost of care as they hope for the best for their children.”
The federal government provides subsidies to eligible low-income families through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The 1.7 million children receiving CCDBG assistance represent only about one-sixth of eligible children, the new Child Care Aware report states. CCDBG funds can be used in unlicensed care, and roughly one-fifth of children receiving CCDBG aid are in unlicensed settings, the report notes.
Child Care Aware makes several recommendations, including urging the U.S. Congress to:
- Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to define minimally acceptable quality child care.
- Require 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.
- Reauthorize CCDBG and add requirements to improve the quality of care.