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Missouri Parents' Dilemma: Quality vs. Cost of Child Care

Advocates say lawmakers need to find a way to fund quality child care for all young Missourians. (Virginia Carter)
Advocates say lawmakers need to find a way to fund quality child care for all young Missourians. (Virginia Carter)
June 17, 2016

ST, LOUIS -- Parents' income shouldn't reflect the quality of child care they can get for their children, advocates say.

For nearly 70 percent of Missouri families with children younger than age 6, both parents work. Dr. L. Carole Scott, chief executive of Child Care Aware of Missouri, said parents often are forced to choose child care that isn't up to the standards they'd like because they can't afford anything else. Some states are doing a good job of providing child-care subsidies for low-income parents, she said, but added that Missouri isn't on that list.

"In Missouri, our reimbursement rates are still pretty low," she said. "The Legislature has been raising them small amounts over the last couple of years, but the amount that the state will pay for child care is still at the very bottom of the range."

Scott said lawmakers need to look at child care as if it's just as important as -- or more important than -- higher education, and find a way to fund it. Early child care is crucial, she said, because she believes what happens to a child from birth to age 3 may be even more important that what happens between ages 3 and 5 because that's when children learn about human relationships.

"The ability to be compassionate and empathatic, the emotional capacity for relationships," she said. "So, if children aren't with their families, we want to make really sure that wherever they are, it's a very high-quality environment that provides them with the interaction that helps them with that brain development."

Scott said the goal should be that children and youths are prepared for success in school, and for future participation in a globally-competitive economy.

"Without the foundation from birth to 5, children will never really be truly successful, no matter how long they go to school after that," she said. "So we know that when you provide quality from birth to 5, things like third-grade reading scores increase, high school graduation increases and employment as adults increases."

According to a report by the Center for American Progress, the average cost for child care for a family with an infant and 4-year-old in Missouri is $18,000.

More information is online at withinreachcampaign.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO