Minnesota ranked the second most-costly state for full-time center-based infant care in the country, according to a new report from Child Care Aware of America.
A single year of full-time infant care at a center in the state averages $13,579. That's more than a year of tuition at a state college. A year of childcare for a preschooler in the state cost $10,470.
"Unfortunately quality costs money," said Chad Dunkley, director of New Horizons Academy Child Care and president of Minnesota Child Care Association, on The Daily Circuit Monday. "It's very challenging for at-risk families in Minnesota to access care."
Minnesota is considered a cherished child community, he said. Areas where parents are more highly educated expect more from their child care.
"Child care in the Twin Cities and in parts of Minnesota doesn't look anything like it does in Mississippi," Dunkley said. "In Mississippi, it's more care. In Minnesota, parents want education; they want learning; they want degreed teachers. They want many things other parts of the country don't expect from their childcare."
Mississippi ranked the most affordable for center-based infant child care at $4,600 a year.
On Facebook, Donna Giersdorf-Thompson said we still aren't paying enough.
"Child care providers - both center and home based - are doing an important, difficult and demanding job, that requires rare personal gifts and aptitudes to be done well," she wrote. "They should be paid well, and certainly much better than they are. They are not social service providers, although our economy treats them as such. Our economy depends on child care workers to provide their services for less than they are worth so that parents can take jobs and be paid less than it costs to truly sustain a family."
If you take the yearly cost of $13,579 for center-based infant care in Minnesota and divide it out, that comes to $5.80 to $6.50 an hour for 40 to 45 hours of care per week.
"When you look at an hourly basis, we pay more to sit in a movie theater and watch a movie than we do for what could be and is, based on brain research, the most important early child-teacher interactions of their lifetime," Dunkley said.
For Minnesota families, the child care costs hit middle income families hardest because they don't qualify for assistance. Some choose alternative methods of making ends meet.
"What we do see is people being incredibly creative about how they piece together two different jobs, how they piece together their own job and take second jobs," said Ann McCully, executive director of the Minnesota Child Care Resource & Referral Network, on The Daily Circuit. "There are just a lot of complex ripples in the economic picture when you start to think about the cost of care."
Starting in-home child care is an option. On Facebook, Jeremy J. Dueholm said it was the best choice after the birth of their fourth child.
"My wife considered going back to work, however, the cost of center daycare would have nearly wiped out her entire paycheck thus negating her even working at all," he wrote. "After lengthy discussion, we decided the best option for us was to get our own in-home daycare license and turn a negative into a positive. Not only do we not have a daycare expense now, but it's turned into a source of income for us and my wife gets the joy of being home with our children like she wanted."
McCully said scholarships for families are a good start to help parents manage the cost of child care.
"We have to think first and foremost about the child and the importance of that child's staying, what we call continuity of care: able to stay in the same setting, the same caregivers, the same teachers," she said. "That's where we see the real impact. Things like scholarships that help close that gap for low-income families that aren't quite so tied to the work of that parent is one of the solutions that are starting to emerge.
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