By Briana Vannozzi
Child care costs are out of reach for many families across the country and in New Jersey. That’s according to new data compiled by the advocacy group, Child Care Aware.
When asked how much the report found it costs a family for child care annually, Advocates for Children of New Jersey Senior Policy Analyst Cynthia Rice said, “It depends on the child, the child’s age. But it could be, for example an infant about $11,500 in a child care center.”
In 2013, the average cost of caring for an infant at a child care center in New Jersey did cost about $11,500. That number drops a bit for 4-year-olds to under $10,000. And about $3,500 for school-aged children.
“So when you think about a family of four even with the median household income, it could be about 20 percent of the family income,” Rice said.
Advocates for children of New Jersey’s senior policy analyst says it has the greatest impact on single moms.
“If you have two kids in child care, it could be up to 70 percent of a single mother’s income,” Rice said.
So why is it so costly?
“When you break it down, it comes to about $5 an hour for preschoolers and about $6 an hour for infants and toddlers. So in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a lot but when you total it up, 55 hours a week for a month, that’s when it adds up, explained Over the Rainbow Nursery School Director Lorraine Confair.
Confair is the director at Over the Rainbow Nursery School, a privately run center in Montclair.
“I think when I first heard the report I was a little bit shocked. You think of college costs as being so outrageous. And then I started thinking about what it costs us to run the program. You have to factor in our taxes, out payroll taxes, state taxes, federal taxes, all of that goes into operating a business,” Confair said.
Families meeting certain income requirements may be eligible for vouchers to help pay for the care. Advocates say a family of four would be making around $47,000 a year to meet the threshold.
“It’s really difficult when you’re trying to balance out the cost of child care versus a paycheck when you’re working part-time. Lots of times you’re really volunteering to work on that side,” said mother Samantha Cordon.
A White House summit today also acknowledged the issue.
“I think as adults it really is our responsibility to ensure that every child gets the kind of early opportunities that will enable them to thrive,” said White House Summit on Early Education Panelist Deborah Phillips, PhD.
New federal programs to assess the quality and accessibility of child care are also in the works.