The cost of child care is driving Americans away from parenthood

Friday, July 06, 2018

(Quartz) - American adults are having fewer kids—or foregoing parenthood entirely. A new survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times sheds light on the dynamics behind the trend.

The survey of 1,858 men and women between 20 to 45 years old identified plenty of personal factors that influence their choices about parenthood. But high on the list was a purely financial concern: The cost of child care.

Among survey respondents who either had children or planned to have kids, about a quarter said they had (or expected to have) smaller families than they’d consider ideal. The number-one reason: For 64% of that group, “child care is too expensive.” Money factored into the equation in other ways too; 49% said they were worried about the economy, while 44% said they couldn’t afford to have more kids, and 43% cited personal financial instability. Thirty-nine percent said they didn’t have enough paid family leave, and 38% said they had no paid family leave at all.

The cost of child care isn’t just prompting Americans to have fewer kids; it’s a factor in making some adults avoid having kids at all. Roughly half of the survey respondents were not already parents. The Times asked people who didn’t want children or weren’t sure if they would have them about their motivations. The most popular reasons were wanting more leisure time (36%) and not having a partner (34%). But the poll also shows that young adults are worried that they won’t be able to afford the trappings of parenthood, like paying for child care (31%) or buying a house (24%).

The survey responses show just how expensive it is to be a parent in the US, particularly when it comes to finding child care. In 2016, according to the nonprofit Child Care Aware of America (pdf), the cost of infant child care in 49 states and the District of Columbia exceeded the standard for affordable child care, according to the threshold established by the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the DHS, the cost of childcare should not be more than 7% of the state median income for a two-parent family.

US policymakers have reason to be concerned about the trend. If the US population were to fall below replacement level, that would leave a growing elderly population to be sustained by a shrinking workforce. In other countries facing this problem, such as Japan and Portugal, this tends to generate social anxiety, economic downturns, and a general sense of cultural malaise.

The fact that the cost of parenthood is deterring young adults from having kids means that US policies could have a real impact on the demographic downturn—notably by implementing more flexible rules and less prohibitive costs governing preschool education and child care, and by giving tax breaks to low-income working parents. We have a mountain of evidence about the policies that would help young families the most. But actually implementing them in the US is a much harder battle.

This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.


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More Money – and Stricter Scrutiny – for Child Care

Friday, July 06, 2018

(PEW) - Research suggests that early childhood education primes young minds for academic and social success. And yet in much of the country, many parents struggle to find any day care at all.

To get more young children into high-quality programs, an increasing number of cities and states are imposing academic standards and other rules on child care providers and using public money to expand access to them.

At least 16 states now offer preschool programs to more than a third of 4-year-olds, up from three states plus Washington, D.C., in 2002. And nationwide, states have increased preschool funding by 47 percent in the past five years.

“What we’re seeing is an influx of state policymakers starting to wrap their arms around the fact that learning doesn’t start in kindergarten,” said Bruce Atchison of the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based nonprofit. “You have to have high-quality pre-K programs, and programs for younger children too.”

Closer scrutiny has come with a cost: In some places, stricter regulations for child care providers may be exacerbating the shortage of slots. Small providers who care for children in their homes also can find it difficult to comply with rules regarding sprinkler systems, radon detectors and fire escape plans.

In California, the number of licensed providers caring for children in private homes declined by 30 percent in the last 10 years, according to the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

“We’re trying to understand the barriers for home-care providers,” said Rowena Kamo, the network’s research director. “We want to build up the supply of what are really small businesses.”

‘Child Care Deserts’

In a 2017 study of 22 states that make up two-thirds of the U.S. population, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C., found that more than half of the children in those states lived in “child care deserts,” neighborhoods or communities with no child care options or so few providers that there are more than three children for every licensed child care slot.

Overall, child care deserts were most common in lower-income rural areas, but they could be found in urban areas too.

In Oakland, California, for example, 63 percent of children under 5 years old live in a child care desert, the study found. There also are significant child care shortages in San Jose (62 percent), Austin (50 percent), Miami (35 percent), Atlanta (33 percent), and Denver (27 percent).

The proportion of residents living in child care deserts ranged from 24 percent in Iowa to 62 percent in California.

“It shows just how ubiquitous the child care shortage is,” said Rasheed Malik, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. “In big cities, it’s very common, as well as in low-density rural areas. But it’s also a problem in suburbs of all types and in all the states that we looked at.”

Many areas with child care shortages would get a boost from the federal budget President Donald Trump signed several months ago. The budget includes an additional $5.8 billion over the next two years for the Child Care Development Block Grant, money that states can use to help low-income families pay for child care so they can work or attend job training.

In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said his state would spend $26 million of its share of that money to wipe out its waitlist for subsidized child care.

Texas’ federal grant under the program would double to nearly $1 billion a year, according to Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of the Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk, which advocates on issues affecting children.

“That will cause a huge push to help provide child care,” Sanborn said. But the new child care slots won’t all provide high-quality instruction, he cautioned.

“If parents don’t have a close-by relative, they are finding the cheapest, safest, cleanest place they can for their children, but it’s basically the warehousing of children,” Sanborn said. “It may be clean and safe, but there’s no learning going on.”

In the District of Columbia, widely considered a leader in providing child care to its residents, officials hope to avoid that problem by requiring that preschool teachers and directors have bachelor’s degrees or certificates in early childhood learning.

“We try to avoid the [term] ‘day care’ because this is about education,” said Elizabeth Groginsky, assistant superintendent of early learning in Washington, D.C. “It used to be babysitting, but it’s not anymore.”

Low Wages and Stricter Rules

Child care can be extraordinarily expensive, so much so that it was the top reason cited in a recent survey of young adults by Morning Consult for The New York Times about why they’ll have fewer children than they considered ideal. Child care is the highest single household expense in most regions of the country, and families are spending 20 to 30 percent of their incomes on it, according to the advocacy group Child Care Aware America. In 28 states and the District of Columbia, it costs more to send your child to day care than to a public university.

One reason for the shortage is that it doesn’t pay to be a child care provider. According to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, the median wage for child care workers is about $10 an hour.

“People think it’s about holding a baby; it’s not,” said Judy Berman of the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice in Washington. “People think it’s just about changing a diaper; it’s not. A lot goes on when you’re changing a diaper.”

The first thousand days of a baby’s life are critical, said Lori Turk-Bicakci, a senior research manager at the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health in Palo Alto, California.

“You want a child care provider, whether it’s a relative or parent or whoever is touching the baby, to be looking at them, making eye contact, talking to them,” she said. “Those simple things are so important.”

But using public money to boost the salaries of child care workers can be a tough sell, even in liberal areas with a shortage of child care providers.

Voters in Alameda County, home of Oakland, narrowly defeated a ballot initiative last month that would have raised the sales tax a half-cent for 30 years, bringing in about $140 million a year to increase pay to $15 an hour for child care workers and expand access to child care for low- and middle-income parents.

Stricter regulations also can be a barrier to providing more child care opportunities, according to Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative nonprofit focused on economic issues facing women.

“All of these regulations sound like common sense, but you wonder how those are applied,” Lukas said. “If you’re having radon testing, and can’t have a baby sleeping in a room without an adult present, it needlessly raises costs.”

The Denver Fire Department recently barred new child care providers from caring for more than five children unless they have a sprinkler system. According to Liddy Romero, executive director of WorkLife Partnership, a nonprofit that is working with companies to create more child care in the city, a $30,000 sprinkler system is an expense that many at-home providers can’t afford.

Licensing issues are “going to prevent big change from happening” in child care availability, Romero said.


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Boulder County early childhood education centers receive grants for natural play areas

Thursday, July 05, 2018

(Times-Call) - Six early childhood education centers in Boulder County will receive grant funding to create naturalized outdoor learning environments and combat childhood obesity. 

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Low pay for child care workers puts more than half at poverty level, study finds

Thursday, July 05, 2018

(EdSource) - A majority of child care workers in California are paid so little they qualify for public assistance programs, according to a new report on the early education workforce.

Fifty-eight percent of child care workers in California are on one or more public assistance programs, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federally funded program that helps pay for food, housing and other expenses, the report by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found. This is according to the most recent data by the American Community Survey and Current Population Survey.

Researchers said while there is little debate about how “woefully underfunded” some early childhood programs are, policy rarely addresses workers’ economic well-being. In 2017, the median wage for childcare workers in California was $12.29 per hour, a 3 percent increase from 2015. Statewide, the median annual income for child care workers is $25,570, the report states.

The federal poverty level, based on annual income $24,250 for a family of four. This differs from the California Poverty Measure which factors in the state’s cost of living. Based on this measure, the poverty level in California is $30,000, for a family of four giving California one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation.

In a state-by-state analysis researchers found that only five states including Colorado and Arizona pay child care workers enough to meet the livable wage standards in the state. Nationwide, 53 percent of child care workers were on at least one public assistance program between 2014 and 2016, the Early Workforce Index report states. In 2017, the median wage for U.S. child care workers was $10.72 per hour or $22.290 per year.

The report, released June 27, includes a comprehensive analysis of efforts made in 50 states to improve early childhood education workforce conditions, such as work environments and compensation.

Child care workers in the report include adults who work with infants and toddlers in child care centers and some home-based settings. In California, education and training requirements vary among child care programs and there are different credential requirements for staff such as lead teacher or teacher assistant and aide. Statewide, licensed child care centers and homes do not have a degree requirement and child workers are not required to have a bachelor’s degree. Some child care centers who contract directly with the state do require staff to have some early childhood education coursework or college units.

“While a major goal of early childhood services has been to relieve poverty among children, many of these same efforts continue to generate poverty in the early care and education workforce, who are predominantly female, ethnically and racially diverse and often have children of their own,” the report states.

The report measures the rate of improvement in five main categories: compensation (goals for increasing how much child care workers and other early educators earn as starting and ongoing wages), workforce data (developing and improving the way states collect and analyze data on early childhood programs), qualifications (goals for increasing access to education and training, aligning education requirements for those who teach children under age 5), financial resources (steps taken to increase funding for early education programs and teaching staff) and work environments (availability of quality supports for staff such as lesson planning time). The report provides a state-by-state comparison in all five categories.

In four of the five categories, California’s status is listed as “stalled.” For the fifth category — work environments — information wasn’t available. “Stalled” is defined as the state making limited or no progress. Researchers used a scoring system of 0-12 for each policy area. A zero to 4 earned a “stalled” rating.

The report states there has been limited progress in raising the wages of child care workers and even the modest increases that have been made are unequal.

Nationwide, median wages for child care workers increased by 7 percent between 2015 and 2017. Child care workers are classified as “low wage” based on median wages across occupations.

Researchers have also identified what they call a “racial wage gap,” which predominantly affects women of color, who comprise 40 percent of the workforce. After accounting for educational attainment, African-American early educators still earn 78 cents less per hour or ($1,622.40 less per year for a full-time worker) than their white counterparts, said Marcy Whitebook, workforce specialist for The Center for the Study of Early Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley. This estimate includes African-American child care workers who work at centers and some preschool teachers, researchers said. Women of color also occupy a disproportionate share of the lowest-paying jobs in the field and hold fewer leadership positions, the report states.

The report also found those who work with infants and toddlers earn less than those who work with children ages 3 to 5. Nationwide, this pay difference disproportionately affects African-Americans, 52 percent of whom work with infants and toddlers compared to 43 percent of all child care workers in child care centers.

One key recommendation in the report is to establish a process to include more child care workers and other early educators, such as preschool teachers, in conversations about how to reform or improve the profession. It states that many child care workers and preschool teachers are left out of critical conversations on policies that directly impact their well-being.


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What we get wrong about the poverty gap in education

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

(Washington Post) - Poor children don't struggle in school because of their parents. They struggle because of poverty.

If you have young children, chances are you’ve been to a pediatrician’s office and have left with a new book in hand. This is often part of a program, recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, designed to promote literacy by providing families with age-appropriate books. Although such programs are uncontroversial and popular, the reasoning behind them — a focus on what poor children and families lack — is misguided.

Over the past 60 years, this emphasis has derailed policies meant to advance early-childhood education. Even more important, it has substituted unfounded critiques of parenting for more significant— and difficult — discussions about how to combat poverty and channel meaningful investments in anti-poverty programs and early education.


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Senators To DeVos On TEACH Grant Debacle: 'Urgent That These Mistakes Are Fixed'

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


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July 1st Brings New State Laws

Monday, July 02, 2018

The Denver Channel  

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Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018

Monday, July 02, 2018

(CSCCE) - The 2016 inaugural edition of the Biennial Early Childhood Work- force Index represented our first report to establish a baseline description of early childhood employment conditions and policies on a state-by-state basis in order to improve early childhood jobs. This 2018 edition, as well as future editions of the Index, will focus on tracking progress and identifying trends in the states over time.

Early Childhood Workforce Index – 2018


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Public Health Notification for Child Care Providers

Friday, June 29, 2018


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Reminder: Child Care Licensing Fee Changes Effective July 1

Friday, June 29, 2018


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