In fact, securing qualified childcare is often the first hurdle parents must overcome before they even consider how they'll pay for it. Based on surveys conducted in 7,000 ZIP codes by the Center for American Progress, at least half of all the locations could be considered “childcare deserts,” meaning access to quality childcare does not meet the demand.
Stringent licensing regulations compiled with limited profits and a high level of risk make childcare, especially infant childcare, a less than optimal business opportunity for would-be providers. For moms on limited maternity leave (which is basically most moms in the U.S.) that can lead to anxiety and stress as they try to find someone to watch their child once they return to the workforce.
If that wasn’t enough of an obstacle, the outrageous cost of childcare definitely is. Parents of young children can expect to pay upwards of $9,589 per year of full-time childcare, based on an in-depth childcare report by the nonpartisan organization New America. Compare that to the average $9,410 cost for one year of in-state college tuition and it’s easy to see why daycare is such a problem for families.
They’re not alone in their need to work, either. U.S. Census Bureau data shows a whopping 14 million families are led by single parents (more often, single mothers), making competent childcare during work hours especially important. Without a job, how are these families supposed to survive?
What, then, are parents to do when their job security is threatened because they can’t find, or even afford, a qualified provider to watch their child? Sadly, the answer usually falls somewhere between hiring someone less than qualified, relying on extended family and friends, or not working at all.
Horror stories abound, like the daycare provider in Florida who was caught on camera kicking a sleeping toddler in the head and the Utah toddler who died when his childcare provider accidentally sat on a beanbag he was playing under, causing him to suffocate.
According to Brigid Schulte, who authored the New American report on the explosive cost of childcare in the U.S., the solution is clear: “It's like education. When you look at the education market, it also doesn't work. It [childcare] has to be subsidized. It has to be seen as a public good."
A 2015 report on early childhood investments by the White House seems to agree.The report found an obvious correlation between parents who had access to affordable childcare and their ability to work longer hours. Sometimes it takes an official voice chiming in to get others to understand the simple math of quality childcare plus working parents equals more economic stability.