Response to Diane Rehm Show on September 29, 2016 entitled “Rating the United States on Child Care”

When it comes to the issue of child care, there are many sides: parents should remain home and raise their children until school entry; parents need to work to afford child care but the cost is high and often absorbs most of their paycheck – especially for those earning low wages; not my problem – I don’t have children or my children are grown. Whichever position is yours, the children are the ones who stand the most to gain or lose from child care. With that being said, isn’t it reasonable to want all children to have access to quality care rather than substandard care? And if quality is available, as a consumer, one would expect there to be a higher cost associated with quality; therefore, it stands to reason that the single largest barrier to accessing quality care is affordability. Regardless of where you are on the aforementioned positions about child care, even parents who pay for child care without any assistance would still appreciate less expensive care with a good quality to cost ratio: high quality with low cost.

Any business owner has to balance product cost vs. demand and often demand is based on quality of product.

On a recent Diane Rehm Show, the conversation centered on the quality of child care in the United States based on the recently released The New America Care Report. The report examines how the child care system in the US became so broken and what can be done to fix it. While the report was the impetus for the program, most of the conversation and callers’ concerns was focused on the high cost of child care and what little assistance is available to help families afford care.

Their report show in Alabama the average cost of care is $14,275 for one year for one child. This average is calculated based on cost of care in both out-of-home locations and in-home care such as nannies. According to VOICES for Alabama’s Children 2015 Kids Count Data Book, the median annual household income in Alabama is $42,882. This means that Alabama families utilizing child care may spend as much as 33 percent of their income on child care alone! Economists recommend that this allocation be closer to 10 percent of a household budget.

Addressing the connection between quality and affordability is complicated but fortunately in central Alabama, Childcare Resources offers a solution. Our Supplemental Child Care Program (SCCP) is designed to offset a portion of child care costs for eligible working families. This one-of-a-kind program exists due to a robust public-private partnership with various funders. The blend of funding makes it possible for qualifying families to receive on average a 20 – 30 percent reduction in their cost of care. Why does this matter? For several reasons:

  • Children who have access to quality early learning environments and care are better equipped to enter school ready to learn and succeed.
  • Children who are better prepared for success in school tend to stay in school, graduate and become more productive members of society.
  • Children who perform well in school become a better prepared workforce who contributes positively to our economy.
  • Children who develop into successful adults tend to be healthier and civically engaged.
  • As our economy and population do well, our communities are more vibrant and attractive.

Regardless of your position on child care, it behooves all of us to support quality and affordable child care. Isn’t giving our children the best the least we can do for them?