The Child Care Struggle is Real. Tell Lawmakers Today.

Families in Delaware and across the country struggle to find available, high-quality, and affordable care while child care workers earn minimum wages and lack health insurance.

By Delaware standards, my family is considered “middle-income.” We currently spend over 22% of that income on child care for our two-year-old. Annually, this amounts to $15,600 for one child. For comparison, a full year of in-state tuition at the University of Delaware for 2021-2022 is $15,020. University students are eligible to apply for financial aid. Parents of young children are not.

For infants, the cost increases considerably. At our daycare, infant care costs $1,500/month, or $18,000/year. This is more than many Delawareans’ rent or mortgage costs. For families with multiple children needing care, the costs continue to skyrocket.

During my own search for child care, I spoke with centers and in-home care providers whose tuition ranged from $13,000 to over $20,000 per year. Not all of these providers had available space. Many did not.

My child was six months old when the pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020. At that time, she had been enrolled in child care for just under three months. Shortly after the lockdown began, our provider informed us that she would have to permanently close her center due to the financial burdens caused by the pandemic. Like many families across the country, we struggled to care for our infant while also working full-time jobs.

It’s no surprise that many parents, especially mothers, left the workforce in 2020 and 2021. Given that my job provides our family’s health insurance, and my husband is self-employed, he stepped back from work to be our child’s primary caregiver.

By winter of 2021, vaccines were on the horizon, and I began searching once again for child care options. Spaces were limited, and costs were high. One center we were interested in contacted me to let me know a spot had opened up, and by the time I called back, it had been filled. Another center tentatively agreed to enroll our child, but refused to commit to a start date citing COVID concerns. Eventually, we found an open spot at our current center, and our child returned to daycare in spring of 2021. Our child is thriving, but the cost of child care continues to strain our budget.

My family’s story is only one glimpse at the struggles Delaware families are facing in the search for high-quality, affordable, early childhood education. My family also has many advantages. We have two incomes, only one child, and family nearby. My job provides paid time off and health insurance. For families with lower incomes, single parents, multiple children, no health insurance or paid time off, or who have children with disabilities, the struggles can be exponential.

All children deserve access to high-quality care regardless of their families’ income. It is beyond time that our state government steps up to provide adequate funding for early childhood education. Contact your local legislator and tell them you support increases in child care this budget cycle.

By Amy Wasserman: parent of a young child, and an advocate for Early Childhood Education in Delaware.

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