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Report Details Burden of High Child Care Costs

December 15, 2017
The Coeur d"Alene Press

Idaho families frequently find themselves paying more in annual child care costs than they would for a year’s tuition at a state college, according to a new report by Child Care Aware of America. And in all regions of the United States, average fees for an infant in a child care center are more than the average amount that families spend on food and transportation combined.

The 2017 “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care” report, released this week, found that the average annual cost of child care for one Idaho infant can range from $6,500 for home-based care to nearly $7,400 for center-based care. And for two children – an infant and a 4-year-old, as an example – those costs can exceed $13,900 annually. As a point of comparison, the average year’s tuition at a state college is about $6,800.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deems child care “affordable” at or below 7% of household income. In Idaho, married parents pay 10.7% of income for center-based infant care, and those costs jump to 33.1% of income for single parents. Married parents at the poverty line can see between 62% and 70% of their income going toward child care fees.

“A state preschool system could help alleviate some of the financial burden of child care for families, but Idaho does not offer state-funded preschool programs for 3- to 5-year-olds,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. “We have a lot of work to do to ensure that every Idaho family has access to affordable, high-quality child care and early learning.”