Child Care Provider Reacts to Cost of Care Report

Child Care Aware® of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Care: 2013 Report received a huge reaction from the media – more than 250 references in the news, reaching an estimated 2 million readers and viewers.

In the report we noted child care is one of the lowest paying professional fields and one of the most labor-intensive. We asked a child care provider to share her perspective on the report.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the award-winning Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia. In this guest blog she shares how the field has changed over the years, and how her team works to balance a successful, high-quality child care program with an innovative approach.

~ Lynette

The Child Care Aware® of America publication, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report was a great prelude to the bi-partisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013, introduced last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY). The importance of early care and education is now being seen as what we, as providers, have known for decades. This age is a critical time of investment.

But while legislators continue to discuss why it is important for Americans to invest in early care and education on all levels, families continue to struggle to ensure their children remain in a high-quality program. The term child care suggests this is an institute for someone to watch children while parents work. While families do rely on child care to support working parents, the field has undergone great changes over the last few decades.

From child care to early education
Today, early care and education has improved the quality of learning for all children. With countless research findings how on a child’s brain develops, we now know that the influences children have in the first years of development are crucial to their success throughout their life. Because of this research, the field of early childhood education has increased quality requirements, added educational guidelines for teachers, and implemented early standards of learning that allow a child’s environment to be rich with positive interactions, and resources that enhance their learning experiences.

Preparing for kindergarten
Recognizing how essential it is to positively impact the brain activity while children are under age 5, educators now work to ensure that children are ready for the challenges that face them in kindergarten and beyond. Children who start kindergarten behind require additional services to catch up. If those services are not provided, children remain behind, and are subject to school failure.

The funding challenge
But public funding has yet to catch up with the quality changes. Many low-income families with young children can apply for federal assistance to help pay for child care. However, subsidy rates are at least 10 years behind the current market rates for child care services, and many  local social service departments have  long waiting lists.

If families do receive child care subsidies, many times, they are required to find quality care that will accept this subsidy rate. Many child care centers charge families, who are already struggling to afford care, the additional cost, over and above the subsidy rates. Right now, the subsidy leaves a balance that can range from $20 to $100 a week.

As the executive director of Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, we have made this struggle our mission.

Our solution
Working to ensure that all families have access to quality early childhood education, we work with private funders and foundations to make ends meet.

But all centers do not have this option.

They either provide the professional quality early learning environment that our children deserve, or provide substandard care, accepting the fees offered through public funding to support families.

Then there are families who don’t meet the income guidelines to receive a public subsidy, but still have difficulties meeting the costs associated with quality early care and education.

Tough choices
Sometimes, families opt to have one parent stay home because the loss of one income is more economical than the cost of child care. While this may seem a solution to the rising cost, as explained earlier, the research backing the importance of early childhood education shows that children enrolled in a quality program show greater outcomes than those children who have not experienced it at all.

Americans need to stop viewing early care and education as “just child care,” and commit to the financial investment in our future.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia.

8 thoughts on “Child Care Provider Reacts to Cost of Care Report

  1. Pingback: Our Director’s response to Child Care Aware® of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Care: 2013 Report. : Falls Church McLean Children's Center

  2. What we know about the potential of the early years and of high-quality preschool programs to help children realize that potential stands in stark contrast to practice in many early childhood settings .Sadly, many preschools are becoming a place of stress and distress where children spend more time being TAUGHT and TESTED than learning through exploration and using their imagination and creativity indoors and outdoors. (Standardized testing of children under eight, when making decisions about the child’s education is in direct conflict with the professional standards of every educational testing organization.) Other children, especially those in low-income households are served in childcare programs of such low quality that learning and development are not enhanced and may even be jeopardized.
    Between these two extremes are high quality programs where good teachers understand how young children learn through play and what is involved in learning academics and they organize materials which capitalize on a child’s naturally developing capabilities rather than forced learning. These children have better language skills, do better in math and score higher on measures of creativity and divergent thinking skills. What’s more, these positive effects are lasting.

  3. I moved here from the UK with 3 children 2 under 5. This is my experience. In the UK my girls had 15 hours state funded early education from the term after their third birthday. The funding could be used in a school based nursery (pre-k) class, a private preschool or a home based childminder. when we arrived my middle daughter attended preschool for 3 3 hour sessions a week and had one day a week in a home based setting. All pre-schools follow the same guidelines for both education and care (EYFS) and are inspected under the same criteria. There is no distinction between education and care – a nursery cannot provide care alone – they have to adhere to the play based early education guidelines to be able to accept the funding.
    When I arrived here I expected her to attend pre school but when looking around I found a) it was very expensive b) there was very little flexibility ie. you had to sign up for 3 sessions on specific days c) many of the pre schools had an academic focus, very rigid timetables, no free flow to the outdoor classroom and very few with mixed age groups. If I am paying a lot of money for early education I expect it to be exceptional. With this in mind as an ear;ly education consultant myself I have chosen to pre-school from home this year. Though I constantly question myself because I too believe early education is the greatest investment we can make in our children’s lives, I still think my children will be confident, creative, inquisitive, and fully rounded by doing it my way. Surely at least one year of early education should be the right of every child? One thing that works well in the UK is schools partnering with independent pre-schools. the pre-schools get a classroom or building for a nominal rent and the school get the benefit of having a pre school that feeds into the school, and often someone who can provide wraparound care for working parents.

  4. Pingback: Top 5 most read blogs in 2013 | Early Directions

  5. Pingback: From Rhetoric to Reality: Inspiring the Nation to Action | Early Directions

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