Colorado child-care costs high
The Denver Post
Child care in Colorado is among the most expensive in the nation, with the average price for two kids costing more than most people’s mortgage, according to a report released today.
The state is the third-highest for child-care costs for 4-year-olds and ranks eighth for infant day care, at $905 a month, according to 2009 KidsCount in Colorado, published by the Colorado Children’s Campaign.
The child-care costs are from a survey of licensed day-care facilities in 2007. Rankings were based on how much of a family’s income goes to child care. In Colorado, care of one 4-year-old takes 13 percent of the median two-parent income and 40 percent of the median single-parent income.
Though experts say they have not extensively probed why Colorado is so expensive, they cite two possible reasons: The state has fewer licensed day-care slots per capita than many other states, and a higher-than-average cost of living could push up costs, particularly in the Denver metro area.
“We’re trying to bring to light how hard it is for working families,” said Lisa Piscopo, a research analyst at the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “Even if there are slots available, the question is: Can people afford them?”
Much of the data in the Kids- Count report was gathered before the recession.
But findings about high child-care costs shed light on why many private preschools and day-care facilities are now seeing a drop in enrollment.
“That only concerns us more,” said Gladys Wilson, president of Qualistar Early Learning, which rates preschools across the state. “That means that kids aren’t even in licensed care. Parents are taking them to unlicensed care, neighbors, because it’s cheaper.”
At Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs, families have dropped to a couple days a week or have pulled out of the school altogether because they’re making less money or one parent lost a job, said director Tami Havener.
More than half of the 65 kids who attend the nationally accredited preschool, which costs $59 a day for 3- to 6-year- olds, have asked for some scholarship in the past nine months. To help them out, Havener has frozen staff salaries and beseeched donors to help defray tuition costs.
The child-care safety nets in Colorado are also weathering the effects of the downturn, including federal Head Start centers, the Colorado Preschool Program and the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program – all tailored to kids at certain poverty levels.
Child Care Assistance has 3,000 more households enrolled than last year at this time. At Mile High Montessori, which is a string of Denver Head Start preschools, 250 kids are on a waiting list.
Low-income parents enrolled in programs such as Child Care Assistance have little incentive to make more money because they risk losing child-care help in a state where affordable alternatives are hard to find.
Dinyetta Love has three boys at a Head Start school in Five Points. She works for an HMO, and her husband is a service manager at King Soopers. Her child care is subsidized by the Child Care Assistance, but she still pays $800 a month.
She recently declined a raise to stay eligible for the help. She takes home about $1,100 every two weeks.
“I feel comfortable here, but even with the help, it’s like we’re paying another rent,” said Love, 37. “We have to pay for our cars and our insurance. . . . It’s tough most of the time.”
The KidsCount report found childhood poverty statewide has increased 85 percent since 2000, with more than 192,000 kids in the state living in poverty in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Anna Jo Haynes, executive director of Mile High Montessori Head Start, hears all the time how hard it is for people to pay for child care.
“We keep saying quality is important, full-day kindergarten is important, and Colorado has been pretty good. We’ve made some steps in the right direction,” she said. “But then you hit these economic times and more people are in poverty and they pull their kids out. They’re not in care like they should be.”
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