Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/22/2005 12:10:55 AM
Working families may pay anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent of their total family income on child care, and experts say the cost frequently is related to the quality of services you and your children receive.
"In today’s society it often takes the incomes of both parents for families to live comfortably," LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe says. "Since both parents are working, both the demand for child care and the cost of child care have increased dramatically in the past 15 years."
Gioe says the average child-care program charges approximately $4,700 a year for tuition, registration and activity fees. In-home child care costs are approximately $3,700 a year, while a nanny tends to be one of the most expensive options – costing an average of about $21,000 a year.
"Although child care is costly, there are some ways to economize," the LSU AgCenter expert points out. "Many child-care programs offer tuition assistance – although, in most cases, families must meet income eligibility requirements to receive this assistance."
As for why child care costs so much, Gioe says there are some myths.
"Contrary to popular belief, child-care programs generally are not big money-making businesses," she says, adding, "Child-care centers are faced with an enormous amount of overhead expenses."
The greatest of those expenses are salaries and benefits for employees, rent or mortgage payments and food costs. In addition to those expenses, child-care centers also have to carry at least the required insurances, and they face expenses of supplies, utilities, licenses and permits, training costs, paper goods, cleaning supplies, toys and games, and outdoor play equipment.
"And that’s only a partial list," Gioe points out.
While saving money may be a consideration for families, Gioe and LSU AgCenter family development specialist Dr. Becky White caution against cutting too many corners.
"Keep in mind that often the cost of child care is directly related to the quality of child care your children are receiving," White says. "So it is not always a wise decision to base your child-care choice solely on costs."
Another way to economize on child care may be to take advantage of payment discounts.
"Most child-care programs bill weekly, but some of them will give you a discount if you agree to pay monthly or yearly in advance," Gioe points out.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.