Last week, Child Care Aware released their annual report on the cost of child care in the United States. The cost of child care continues to be high with the average annual cost exceeding that of a year in-state college tuition at a public university. In Nebraska, annual care for an infant in a center cost an average of $7,797 compared to $7,199 for a year of college.
The irony is that college expenses are something that a family can theoretically plan for — families can save, college-bound teenagers can get jobs to help, and loans and other forms of financing are available. With child care, a family is left with limited options and often has to rely on informal care arrangements that may not provide the safety and quality that young children need.
The Child Care Subsidy program provides some financial assistance to working families with child care costs. Even though the state made improvements last year, Nebraska’s eligibility level for assistance still remains among the lowest in the entire country.
The cost of child care can be particularly challenging for single parent families. The Child Care Aware report compared the cost of annual infant care to the average median income of one-parent and two-parent families. In Nebraska, child care costs represent about 33% of annual income for a single parent and about 10% for a two-parent family.
The report is a good reminder that we still have a long way to go — both as a state and as a country — in ensuring that kids have access to safe, quality environments while their parents work. We hope that the steps that Nebraska took last year were just the start of a longer journey toward access to quality child care for all Nebraska kids.