by E’LAINA BARRON
Did you know that more than half of parents are more concerned about childcare costs today than before the pandemic? According to www.care.com’s 2022 Cost of Care Survey, many parents face a significant uphill battle when it comes to being able to afford quality childcare. While childcare costs have been a concern long before the pandemic, the 2020 COVID pandemic created new issues around childcare that are having a major post-pandemic impact on families and the childcare industry.
Since the pandemic, over 8,000 daycare centers have closed in the country, with 28 percent of childcare centers and home facilities closing here in Forsyth County. Along with a reduction of centers/facilities available, the cost of quality childcare has increased drastically, creating yet another hardship for middle-income families.
The 2022 Cost of Care Survey also revealed:
• The cost of childcare is higher for families in 2022. 51% of parents say they spend more than 20% of their household income on childcare, and 72% of parents report spending 10% or more.
• Quality childcare continues to be tough for parents to find. In fact, 43% of parents say it’s much harder to find childcare over the past year.
• Parents continue to struggle to pay for childcare. In fact, 59% are more concerned about childcare costs now than in years prior, which is driving significant changes, such as taking on a second job (31%), reducing hours at work (26%), changing jobs (25%), and leaving the workforce entirely (21%), to foot the bill.
So How Much Are We Talking & What’s Affordable?
We talk about childcare costs being expensive, but just how expensive are they really? Most recently, data shows that since the pandemic, the average weekly cost for daycare centers is $226, and $221 for a family/home center. This brings average monthly costs for one child to roughly $1,017, and $2,034 for two children. For many, this cost is comparable to and sometimes exceeds their monthly rent/mortgage payments. Childcare is considered affordable if it costs families no more than 7% of their household income, which, as the survey showed, is only about 28% of families. That would mean that quality childcare is unavailable for approximately 72% of families.
How Smart Start is Helping Families
Smart Start of Forsyth County is working to help families that are struggling with accessing and affording childcare, through our Family Childcare Scholarships Program. The ongoing Family Childcare Scholarship Program provides childcare scholarships to qualifying families residing in Forsyth County.
Each year we serve 300-400 children with scholarships for childcare. We served 311 children in 2019-20, 394 children in 2020-21, and so far in 2022-23 we are serving 311 children. And in addition to the regular scholarship program, we receive about $20K in funding for our Emergency Assistance Program, which serves families that have had an emergency and need temporary assistance quickly.
Eligibility for the scholarships is based on income guidelines identical to the Forsyth County Department of Social Services. Childcare scholarships are available for children from birth through the start of kindergarten.
There are a few parent requirements:
- Working 25 hours per week,
- Attending school full-time, or
- A combination of working and attending school for a total of 25 hours per week.
Family engagement is also promoted through the Family Childcare Scholarship Program. Our team is prepared to promote healthy relationships between childcare providers, families, and their children by establishing positive and goal-oriented relationships to ensure family well- being.
Please know that we do STILL have scholarships available and would be happy to discuss how we can be of service to you or your family. Please visit our website at www.SmartStart-FC.org for more information.