Paying for Child Care
Unless you are very wealthy or very fortunate, paying for child care will take a big slice out of your family budget. Parents pay 70 to 75 percent of child care costs in the United States. Public schools, in contrast, are financed by taxes paid by families and individuals without school-aged children as well as those with children currently enrolled in school.
It is possible to get back part of what you pay for child care or to have some of those costs covered by public funds. Take advantage of these ways to save some money so that you can buy the best possible care for your child.
The Age of Your Child
The younger your child, the more regular, minute-to-minute attention he or she needs from a caring adult. This is why licensing regulations require lower ratios of adults to children for infant care than for the care of four-year-olds. In New York State child care centers, each caregiver can look after up to seven four-year-olds but no more than four infants. Most of your child care fee goes to pay the salary of your caregiver. This means that only four families are paying the salary of the infant caregiver, while seven share the cost of the person looking after the four-year-olds. Infant care, then, costs almost twice that for preschoolers.
The Type of Care You Choose
If you need child care for one or two children, a nanny will cost the most, followed by an au pair arrangement, center care, and family child care. If there are three or more children in care, the center will be nearly as costly as the nanny or au pair, although it has some other advantages. Family child care is a particularly good buy if your child is an infant or a toddler. A family child care provider will usually charge 25 to 33 percent less to look after your infant than you would pay at a child care center (if you can find one that accepts infants). Family child care is cheaper because the provider is paying herself less than she would make working in a center, and the costs of maintaining and running her home are lower than those in a center. In general, for-profit centers are more expensive than centers that are run on a nonprofit basis. This is not because forprofit centers pay their caregivers better. The most recent national comparison found that only 62 percent of the forprofit center budget went for wages, whereas that figure was 79 percent for nonprofit programs. The big cost for the profitmaking programs is the building and grounds, which use up about 20 percent of the budget. Because many nonprofit centers have space donated to them at little or no cost by schools, churches, and other nonprofit organizations, this expense consumes a relatively small part of their overall budgets.
Reprinted with the permission of Cornell University. © 2008 Cornell University
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