The joys of raising a family are often encumbered by logistics. Providing care for children under the age of five poses significant problems for working parents. The availability of familial care and affordable childcare is dwindling. While the government tries to accommodate these situations, obstacles still exist.
The government mandates that children attend school from kindergarten to grade 12. Options for children younger than five are usually privatized and expensive. Funding is available in the form of vouchers to subsidize care and programs like Headstart allow children from low-income families to receive free childcare before kindergarten. The gray area though, is significant for families above the low-income threshold but below the upper-middle class minimum. The cost of childcare has exceeded the cost of rent in many areas. The average cost for center-based care for an infant is $1,230 and family-based care is $800 monthly.
The average median income for a household in 2018 was $63,179 and that’s barely enough to cover rising expenses. The cost of basic necessities has steadily increased over the last few years, causing families to reassess necessity. The rising cost of housing, food and transportation leave little for childcare. Households that do not qualify for the programs are finding that it is more beneficial to have one parent stay home rather than have one salary go exclusively to childcare costs. Single parent homes with limited options are finding that childcare delivers a different set of problems.
Maternity leave is not regulated in the United States and companies can determine how much leave is appropriate for its workforce. However, the Family Medical Leave Act grants twelve weeks of unpaid leave but nearly 40% of women do not qualify. In many cases, women return back to work within two weeks of delivery to make ends meet. In turn, infants are put into programs like Headstart, placed in the care of available family members or in a daycare setting that is deemed safe and practical.
A crucial time in development for children is between the ages of zero to five. Finding quality childcare is essential to the development and well being of a child. The level of care that is received during this short period sets the precedent for success into adulthood. High-quality care improves early learning, cognitive and language development, social and emotional development and school achievement. The implications of these advantages are seen later in life in relation to higher IQ’s, achievement in higher education and better health in adulthood.
Finding adequate childcare requires sacrifice of some sort. Lower-income households have more access to vouchers but may find it difficult to find better quality centers. Two parent households can find that one parent has to stay home to provide in home care and single parents give up much needed bonding time faster to return to work. The price of childcare is bankrupting families of time, long term success and money but parents are becoming more resourceful to offset the cost.