Child care centers can’t afford to stay open. Here’s what this means for families

At KidzStuff Child Care Center in Baltimore, the cost of food, rent, power and supplies is skyrocketing. CEO Angela Kidane has increased her staff’s salaries by about 40% amid a tight labor market, but she’s still struggling to hire teachers. This forced her to close at least one classroom, which could cost the nonprofit as much as $ 150,000 for the year.

“We’re probably with at least 30 to 35% in operating costs,” Kidane told CNN. “What’s going through my mind, how’s it going to affect our parents? We’ll have to pass on the cost.”

This fall, Kidane will increase tuition for the third time in 12 months – a total of 30%. For some families, full-time childcare can cost thousands of dollars more per year.

“It’s not easy for us to do that, but it’s a necessity,” Kidane said. “We could not survive. We will not stay open.”

Childcare programs nationwide are raising rates for the same reasons.

“It happens everywhere,” said Cindy Lehnhoff, director of the National Child Care Association. “[Programs] does not have an alternative to keep the doors open, that’s what should happen. And they hate doing it to their parents, they hate it. ”

Inflation is not the only problem

Inflation is just one part of the problem. There are 11.2% fewer childminders in the industry than before the pandemic, despite federal emergency relief funds helping programs boost salaries (at least slightly), according to a report from the Center for Study of Employment in Child Care at the University of California, Berkeley. As of last year, the median wage in the industry was just over $ 13 per hour, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A study found from March 2021 closed nearly 16,000 child care programs during the pandemic – about 9% of the industry’s licensed programs – which created longer waiting lists and steeper education for parents.

“We hear from people across the country that childcare costs are unaffordable, and we also hear from parents who are childcare workers that they do not earn a living wage,” said MomsRising CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner.

“An estimated half a million families in the United States are already without child care due to a lack of access and affordability,” she added. “With increasing pressure due to inflation, even more families are stranded without childcare.”

The demand for childcare could increase even further with Covid-19 vaccines now available for children under 5. The San Diego-based company TOOTRiS, which connects parents with licensed childcare providers, said waiting lists have grown by about 25% in recent months .

“Families cannot wait to get their children back to childcare in a safe way,” said Alessandra Lezama, CEO of TOOTRiS. “Coupled with the fact that so many programs have been forced to shut down during Covid, the demand and supply issue has worsened.”

“We do not want to charge our parents anymore”

At Beach Babies Child Care, which has several branches in the Rehoboth Beach area of ​​Delaware, owner Sean Toner is raising tuition this fall for the second consecutive year by 8% to 10% this fall to curb inflation and teachers’ salaries to about $ 14 an hour to increase.

“We no longer want to ask our parents for a thing that should not cost so much,” Toner said. “I do not want to be that person who drives away the parents.”

Jessica Gebbia is a teacher at Beach Babies. Her 5-year-old son also goes there for day care.

“Most of my salary is just to have him here,” Gebbia said. “It’s rough because now we have gas prices, food prices, everything just goes up and up.”

But Gebbia does not want to leave her job.

“I love what I do,” she said. “These kids need teachers who love what they do.”

A classroom stands empty at Beach Buddies in Lewes, Delaware, amid a struggle to hire staff.

But many mothers left the workforce. This is part of a growing trend: as of May, women’s jobs accounted for 88% of those lost in the pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.

While pandemic relief funds have helped stabilize child caregivers somewhat, those funds will expire in the next two years. Lawyers are concerned that the industry may be heading for a cliff, and are urging more federal investment in child care to bridge the gap between providers’ limited margins and rising costs for families.

“The pandemic has made it almost impossible for providers to continue, and the current market conditions have made it even more difficult,” said Michelle Kang, chief executive of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “Without action to bolster and strengthen the supply, we are heading for a catastrophe, which will leave families without care options.”

As childcare prices rise, millions of families face difficult decisions.

To-Wen Tseng and her husband have struggled to afford child care for $ 370 a week in San Diego since her employer cut her hours in half. So she flew her children to Taiwan to stay with family for the summer while looking for a second job.

“If I just quit my job and stay home and look after my children, the whole thing might be easier for my family,” Tseng said. “The reason we are still struggling to pay for this childcare is because I do not want to give up my career. I try so hard because I feel I have to be an example to my children.”

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