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Child Care Costs: 'It's Tough to Be in the Middle'

A new report finds center-based child care is more costly than college tuition in Idaho. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
A new report finds center-based child care is more costly than college tuition in Idaho. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
December 19, 2016

MERIDIAN, Idaho — The cost of center-based child care in Idaho is higher than the cost of tuition at a public college, according to a recent report.

The study from Child Care Aware of America found that the average annual cost of center-based child care is more than $7,300, and home-based care is more than $6,500. To compare, average tuition at a public college in the state is $6,800.

Care for one child costs about 10 percent of married Idahoans' family budgets. Meridian resident John Lewis has learned that finding quality, affordable care for his 1-1/2 year-old daughter can be a real struggle.

"It's kind of tough to be in the middle,” Lewis said, "when you make just a little bit more so you can't qualify for some of the programs or the grants, but you don't make enough to pay for the high-priced day care.”

The study also showed the cost to parents increases significantly depending on their situation. On average, single parents spend one-third of their income on center-based care for a child. For two kids, a married couple spends one-fifth of their income.

Lewis said he originally had his daughter in home-based care. After going through two different caregivers, however, he and his wife decided to put their daughter in a child-care center. But the care wasn't up to their standards: he said most of his daughter's day was spent in front of a television and there didn't seem to be much learning or engagement going on.

Finally, they found a center they felt was the right fit, but it was at a higher price.

"They also were accepting new kids, and that's the other problem with day care,” Lewis explained. “A lot of day cares are fully maxed-out, especially the good ones. So, it can be very stressful, very tough to move your child. It's also very stressful for the child."

Lewis said he and his wife are lucky enough to be able to pay a little more for quality child care.

"I'm definitely willing to spend more to just have that peace of mind and have that reassurance,” he said, “but with that definitely comes sacrifice."

Lewis said the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children helped him find quality care for his daughter. The national AEYC Accreditation and IdahoSTARS Steps to Quality project are two resources that parents can use to find affordable, quality child care.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID