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Illinois Ranked 7th for “Least Affordable” Infant Care

PHOTO: Child care is a major expense in Illinois family budgets, and a new report finds the cost of day care grew up to eight times faster than the average family's income in 2012. Photo: girls playing with blocks. Credit: M.Kuhlman
PHOTO: Child care is a major expense in Illinois family budgets, and a new report finds the cost of day care grew up to eight times faster than the average family's income in 2012. Photo: girls playing with blocks. Credit: M.Kuhlman
November 12, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Child care is a major expense in Illinois family budgets, and a new report finds the cost of day care grew up to eight times faster than the average family's income in 2012. According to the findings from Child Care Aware, Illinois was the seventh-least-affordable state for center-based infant care last year.

While reducing costs is important for families, according to Christine Robinson, director of public policy and advocacy at Illinois Action for Children, the bigger issue is ensuring that all children have access to quality care, which is expensive.

"The story should be about finding ways to fairly compensate the highly-skilled work force that we need to support our youngest learners and to find policy solutions and programmatic solutions for parents so that they can have access to the quality care that every child needs," Robinson declared.

According to the findings, it costs almost $13,000 a year for center-based infant care, which can be more than 14 percent of a family's monthly income, and over 50 percent of the income of a single mother. To address the high costs of care, the report recommends that Congress reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grants, and investment in programs that help parents identify quality care settings and assist providers in maintaining licensing compliance.

Often families end up choosing child care based on how much they can afford. Some families turn to relatives, friends or neighbors for care, and in other situations the parents work different shifts so someone is always home with the child. Robinson said it's important to preserve those non-traditional care options for parents, but also to ensure children have access to educational and social opportunities.

"What we want to do is make sure that children in all care settings have access to quality care, and if a child is in that type of informal setting that they have the opportunity to attend some kind of high-quality early learning in some way, shape or form," she said.

Robinson said there has been a lot of work in Illinois to regulate child care, including programs that pair children in family care settings with state-funded preschool programs. But she said there are opportunities with federal rule changes to make the child-care assistance program more family-friendly to focus on affordability and accessibility for families.

See "Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report" at USA.ChildCareAware.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL