Experts talk cost of child care as numbers rise

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Day care is expensive, but why does it cost so much?

Tiffany Narod of Tonawanda has twin 10-month old daughters. She and her husband pay $20 thousand a year in childcare and that’s with a discount.

“With daycare, we we’re hoping to find something cheaper than $20,000 a year, but it is what it is,” Narod said. “I would rather be satisfied with the place that I have my kids, knowing that they’ll be taken care of.”

The cost of daycare in western New York varies. Here are some of the figures:

local child care costs

Barbara Stone Reden, the director of Early Childhood Services at the Jewish Community Center says they provide a rich program for children. She says the cost of daycare is higher at her facility because they have more staff per child. The state requires one staff member for every four infants. They have one adult for every three infants. They also start teaching the curriculum as early as 6-weeks-old.

“Here at the JCC we beat those ratios every time,” Reden said. “The reason for that is partly so that we can work with the children individually and in small groups. And we can be much more responsive to the children.”

The Department of Health and Human Services considers child care affordable if it consumes 10 percent or less of a family’s income.

Lynn Pullano, the CEO of the Child Care Resource Network has seen worse figures in Western New York. She said the cost of early child care is taking a toll on many local families.

“This is a very critical issue. We know that working families are just strapped. The expense of childcare can take up to 50 percent of a family’s income. For low income families, it could be up to 75 percent,” Pullano said.

Many families are strapped and so are some day care employees.

The Economic Policy Institute states many childcare workers in the U.S. aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. It says the median hourly wage is $10.31.

Reden at the JCC said some of her employees make a little more or a little less than that. It depends on their position.

“About 65 percent of what we charge (for early childhood) goes just to pay the staff. I wish it was more,” she said.

Pullano said child care operators are caught between a rock and a hard place. She explained that they have to pay for a number of regulatory expenses like background checks, fingerprinting, and training. Then with the low wages, there’s high staff turnover. So employers have to start all over again. Between salaries and annual expenses, she said operators are stuck in a catch 22.

“All of those things are expensive. When there’s a high staff turnover, which there tends to be in certain child care centers because of the low pay, it’s very unfortunate. But what we’re seeing then are perhaps doubled costs, because the more turnover in staff, the more expensive all of the fingerprinting, background checks and other expenses are,” Pullano said.

Pullano said companies may see less turnover if employees could be paid more.

One mother went another route. Kris Ann Bolt of Cheektowaga has twins. She has used the EurAuPair service since they were born. It’s a U.S. exchange visitor program. The au pair cares for your children in exchange for inclusion in American family life and an opportunity to study at a college or university.

Bolt pays an $8,525 annual fee and $195 weekly stipend for this.

“You get 45 hours of time with the Au Pair and that can be whatever schedule you prefer. If you work off shift, or if you have to go in early one day. It’s very flexible and she works with you.”

The au pair lives with Bolt’s family. The annual fee she pays covers the au pair’s travel to the U.S., health insurance, visa assistance, training and more.

Bold has liked it so much, she’s hired a second au pair. “I’ve loved it,” she said. “We’ll probably do it next year.”

As for parents trying to decide which day care is best, child care advocates say the most important thing is that children are cared for by qualified individuals. Whether it’s at a licensed daycare center or home.

Many teachers in Buffalo and Amherst agree, if a child gets early education it makes a difference in their ability to learn when they get to kindergarten or first grade.

“I think the educational part of it, they’re a little more advanced because they’ve had a little more time in a classroom. They’ve had that structure of letters and number sense. things like that,” one first grade teacher at Charter School for Applied Technologies said.

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