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Child care costs now comparable to college tuition



A preschool aged boy uses his recess time to play with a word puzzle.
A preschool aged boy uses his recess time to play with a word puzzle.
Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

When it comes to affordability of child care, a new report gives California an F.

Compiled by nonprofit research and advocacy group Child Care Aware of America, the report found that the average cost of full-time infant care in 2012 ate up 44 percent of the earnings of a single-income family — making California one of the top 10 least affordable states.

In 31 states — including California, child care rivals the cost of college, according to the new report, “Cost of Care.”

The group examined fees paid to licensed child care facilities, including family-run home day care centers — but did not include costs for families that hire a nanny or babysitter. The group found that the average cost of child care nationwide did not keep pace with family income, growing up to eight times faster than earnings.

Data for the report came from the 2012 survey of Child Care Resource and Referral State Networks, as well as local agencies, which collect information on fees charged for child care centers and family child care homes.

This is the seventh year that the organization has examined the costs of child care. Some of the report’s major findings include:

The report also looked at the cost of preschool versus college and found:

The report highlighted that the high costs affects more than just families of young children. For 2012, there was significant impact on business, with $3 billion spent on employee absenteeism as a result of “child care breakdown.”

The report also highlights an emerging problem that the high cost of licensed child care presents: Some parents are moving children to lower-cost, unlicensed care facilities.

“Unlicensed care is not subject to basic health and safety requirements, minimum training requirements, or background checks for providers," the report said. “How many parents are willing to ask a friend to let them inspect the cupboard under the sink for poisons?”