Parents Agree: The Pandemic Made Child Care Worse

Americans say it's time for the government to step up when it comes to helping with ever-increasing child care costs in the wake of COVID-19, according to a survey.

preschool teacher and students in classroom
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There's no doubt about it: The rising costs of child care in the U.S. are a burden for many families, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the finances of so many people as well as businesses. Though the unemployment rate is declining in America, many people are struggling to find jobs, work enough hours, or reopen their businesses after lengthy stay-at-home orders. Now add in the cost of quality child care in a world where many providers have closed, and you've got a tricky situation.

A June 2021 survey by Care.com, a platform for finding dependable family care, reported that 59 percent of families planned to spend at least $10,000 that year for child care—which, by the way, is more than the average annual cost of a four-year public college for an in-state student. About 85 percent of those surveyed say they spend more than 10 percent of their entire household income on care for their kids.

Between 2019 and 2022, the average weekly rate for a nanny increased from $565 to $612 for one child. And the average weekly rate for a toddler in daycare jumped from $182 to $340.

A 2022 LendingTree report reported similar findings. It discovered that child care costs for kids under 5 account for 17 to 20 percent of the average American's earnings. Between 2018 and 2020, center-based costs increased 5 percent for infants and toddlers, and 7 percent for 4-year-olds. On the whole, wages are rising as child care costs do, the report says.

Depending where you live, child care can be even less affordable or accessible. For example, in 2020, Care.com found that Mississippi, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. ranked among the least affordable places to live for hiring a nanny or sending your child to daycare. Also, a University of Minnesota and the Center for American Progress analysis found that middle income, rural families are more likely to be in child-care deserts, meaning they have the least options for quality care though the demand for it is still there.

That's why nearly all parents surveyed in 2020 (96 percent, in fact), wanted the government and business leaders to step in and provide financial support for child care, especially as Americans move past the pandemic. Here's how to help make that happen—and how to take advantage of the things already available to cut costs for your family:

What You Can Do About Child Care Costs

  • Price out options in your area. (Check out Care.com's free tools for calculating full-time child care, babysitter rates, and nanny taxes.) Or ask other local moms.
  • Get creative by looking into more cost-effective options like nanny sharing, pods, drop-off classes, or by checking to see if there's any flexibility with the hours you work/need care.
  • Research government programs and subsidies—like these child tax credits—that may be available for your family and help to offset costs. Explore federal and state programs.
  • Vote. Stay up to date on candidates and other efforts to lower child care costs.
  • Get involved. Check out Child Care Aware of America, which has resources and opportunities to take action.

The child care crisis in America has declined as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, though many issues persisted before it. Parents need to be their own advocates to find solutions that work for their families, and most importantly, their children.

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