“It costs more than our mortgage.” Families in Metro East Struggle to Get Child Care |


BELLEVILLE — Leslie Barton and Tony Browning put themselves on a daycare waiting list before Barton was three months pregnant. More than a year later, they got care in Edwardsville, and even then it was part-time and cost more than their monthly mortgage payment.

Their story is one that many families in the Eastern Metro area know, as the average Illinois family pays $13,762 for center care per baby.

The US average for child care of all ages is $9,200 to $9,600 per year per child, according to Child Care Aware. The nonprofit provides a caveat for that number, writing that childcare costs vary widely depending on location.

Affordability of child care is affected by a number of factors including race and ethnicity, family size, whether the child is enrolled in a family center or program, marital status of the parents, the country of birth of the parents and the age of the child or children. Child Care Aware provides datasets aimed at estimating the impact of these factors on affordability.

Barton said she couldn’t imagine trying to find options for her child if her family was earning minimum wage, working jobs that couldn’t be done remotely or didn’t have family members to help. ‘to help.

“I’m very lucky to have a retired mother who can help us out,” Barton said.

The couple receives a child tax credit of $3,600, which is available to families earning less than $150,000 a year. Eligible families receive $3,000 for each child over 6 and $3,600 for each child under 6.

The average monthly price for full-time child care per child is $808 in St. Clair County, or 17% of the median income of a family with a child under age 6. St. Clair County and Illinois both have higher average child care costs than the United States as a whole.

Why are the waiting lists so long? Why is daycare so expensive?

Barton and Browning waited over a year to place their daughter, Margaux, in daycare. They shared his nursery as an office while they waited on five lists.

Licensing regulations, a declining workforce, low wages, and COVID-19 regulations have all contributed to the lack of available childcare options, particularly affecting infant and toddler populations. -small.

Shauna Ejeh, senior vice president of Illinois Action for Children, said one reason child care is hard to find is that facilities are actually losing money on their infant programs. , so they don’t offer a lot of places.

“Providing quality infant care probably costs $20,000 to $30,000 a year. First of all, parents can’t afford it, can they?” said Ejeh.

In Cook County, Ejeh said parents pay child care tuition, $16,000 to $20,000 a year, if they can even find a place for the baby. But even those high rates wouldn’t cover Ejeh’s cost estimate for quality child care.

Since child care centers typically lose money on infant programs, Ejeh said there are usually only one or two infant classes (with about eight to 12 children each) at any given center.

Another problem is that of personnel. Teaching positions that pay more than infant care are experiencing massive shortages, and child care staff have also been affected by the big resignation.

“We have the challenge where salaries are not at par with other levels of education, but particularly K-12,” Ejeh said. “We have traditionally underinvested in our early care and education system, and so a lot of the people who work in the classrooms don’t earn a living wage.”

Janice Moenster, director of early childhood services for the southern region of Children’s Home & Aid, said the average child care teacher can earn $13 to $17 an hour.

“It’s tough because they could go to other companies and have higher pay or very similar pay and fewer stressors in their lives,” Moenster said.

Ejeh said the most important thing that can be done for the child care problem in the United States is to increase federal investments. Ejeh said the United States currently spends $2 billion a year on early learning and child care, and that figure should be closer to $14 billion.

How do you find a place to go for your child?

Children’s Home & Aid Child Care Resource & Referral is an information service providing families with consumer information and referral options based on their personal needs.

Call 800-467-9200 to speak with a professional about finding a daycare center with openings or waiting lists in your price range. The referral system takes into consideration the type of care a parent is interested in, siblings, disabilities the child may have and whether the family is homeless.

“The Child Care Resource & Referral was designed to really address quality, accessibility and affordability. Those are the three main strategies we employ in our program,” Moenster said.

It is up to the family whether they decide to pursue one of the referred programs, but resource system professionals provide a live search aimed at giving the family options on their first call.

“We know that (for) infant/toddler care almost every program has a wait list,” Moenster said. “Infant/toddler slots for children were initially minimal, and when COVID hit, programs had to reduce the number of children served, for safety reasons.”

One alternative that parents can consider is family care. Family programs may still be permitted and may have attachment benefits, Ejeh said.

“The attachment to a primary caregiver, even outside of the home, really helps and supports this child’s development,” Ejeh said.

In daycare, children are sometimes moved from class to class without having the same teacher, and Ejeh said the stability made possible by home-based providers is a good thing.

One way to find an installation is to go through ExceleRate Illinois, which provides program ratings.

The Child Care Assistance Program helps families find affordable child care options and helps families determine applicable relief programs.

Head Start and “Preschool for All” are two other Illinois programs for receiving child care financial support. The child tax credit is also available.


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