Paying for Child Care (page 2)
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.
Where You Live
In general, everything costs more in the city than in rural areas. This means that centers must pay higher salaries and rents, family child care providers must charge more to cover higher costs, and your nanny will be more expensive (especially if she doesn’t live with you and must pay rent). Cities, however, are also likely to provide more subsidized child care for families with lower incomes. If you are eligible for a subsidy and are able to obtain one (there are usually waiting lists), it may reduce your child care costs considerably.
The Cost of Quality
Does a higher fee always mean better quality child care? Not necessarily. The programs that charge the very lowest fees may also provide care of the lowest quality. But a moderately priced program may actually do a better job than the top-of-the-line model of caring for your child, depending on how the money is spent. That is why you must take time to compare programs carefully. The quality of the caregivers working directly with your child should be your primary concern.
If you are choosing among centers, look beyond the fee and learn how many children each caregiver is responsible for and how much education and training the caregivers have. If the choice is between better paid and more qualified caregivers in a modest physical environment and less well paid and qualified caregivers in a beautiful setting, go for the more qualified caregivers. Spend your money on good people. Ten years from now your child will not remember much about the building the program was housed in but may recall with great fondness a special adult and friends made during those early years.
Better quality family child care costs a good bit more than low quality family child care, usually because these providers meet the legal regulations required by the state in which they operate. But high quality family child care homes are still a good buy compared with centers, especially if your child is an infant or a toddler. Of course, you are buying a different product, with less access to same-aged children, often less emphasis on cognitive development, and usually less backup in case the provider is ill. If your family child care provider is interested in more education in child development or child care training, offer to cover the cost of enrollment and increase your payment 5 to 10 percent when she has completed these studies (say from $90 per week to $95 per week). (Even if you can’t afford to pay for her course, promise of a fee increase might prompt her to take the course anyway.) The added value in improved care and a stronger partnership will more than make up for the increased expense (assuming you can find the money somewhere else in your budget).
Reprinted with the permission of Cornell University. © 2008 Cornell University
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- The Homework Debate
- GED Math Practice Test 1