Child care is part of the daily routine for millions of American families with young children. Working parents rely on child care to earn the income they need to support their families and ensure that their children are well cared for in safe environments while they are at work. High quality child care - care that provides a safe, stable, developmentally appropriate and stimulating environment - helps children enter school prepared to learn.
According to data gathered by Child Care Resource & Referral of Central Wisconsin Inc. from regulated child care programs across Portage County, families can expect to pay about $178 per week or $8,900 per year for full-time care of their infant. For the family who has an infant and a 3-year old, this cost becomes about $341 per week or $17,050 per year in the Stevens Point area. So the cost of child care becomes more expensive than many families' housing or transportation costs and much more than the cost of food in any given month.
Child care fees are expensive because caring for a young child is labor-intensive work. Child care providers cannot lower their prices while maintaining the low child-to-caregiver ratios that lead to better learning environments and safer places for children. Training and education for child care providers, safe facilities, and other factors that improve the quality of child care may also increase child care fees for parents.
To make quality child care more affordable for families, the fees parents pay must be supplemented by outside investments. Child care staff are barely earning minimum wage. According to data gathered by CCR&R of Central Wisconsin, Inc. from group child care centers (including for profit and nonprofit programs) across Portage County, the average wage of a child care teacher is $11.35 per hour or just less than $23,600 per year with very little or no benefits.
Investments in child care infrastructure and improvement in the overall quality of care are necessary to reduce the cost of child care for all families, but especially for those earning low incomes. Wisconsin has begun to take a serious look at the quality of child care in our state by implementing a quality rating and improvement system called YoungStar. This initiative sets a five-star rating system for child care providers based on education, learning environment, business practices, and the health and well-being of children. All children in Portage County deserve excellent early childhood care and education!
Kelly Borchardt is executive director for Child Care Resource & Referral of Central Wisconsin Inc. To reach her, call 715-423-4114 or email email@example.com.