(PHOTO AND STORY: KHQ.COM)
How am I going to support my family? That's the question countless Washington parents are asking themselves as childcare costs continue to go up. Minimum wage hikes are hurting many local daycares, and some say they have no choice but to pass the financial burden onto their customers.
The nonprofit organization Childcare Aware Washington, said daycare costs in Washington are among the most expensive in the nation. It's something that doesn't surprise mother's we talked to Monday.
"It's frustrating," said one mom, "You can't get ahead now days. You just work and work and work."
Many parents we spoke with said they are left wondering, what's the point of even working?
On Monday, one of our producers came to work with an observation, saying it is now more expensive to send your kid to daycare than it is to send them to a state college.
This couldn't be true, could it? Well, if you look at just the tuition fees of many state colleges compared to the average cost of daycare, yeah, it is.
Here are some of the tuition costs of Washington universities:
- University of Washington - $10,753
- Washington State University - $10,916
- Eastern Washington University - $6,110
- Central Washington University - $7,653
In Spokane County, here are the average costs of childcare, according to wa.childcareaware.org
- Infant - $849/month
- Toddler - $722/month
- Preschool - $650/month
Let's just say yearly tuition for college accounts for 9 months of school, while childcare rates account for 12 months of care. To send a toddler to daycare will cost $8,664 a year - right in the middle of tuition at state colleges.
One mom said it can feel like their family is drowning.
"It is the number one bill in our household, by far," she said.
Parents said multiple children make things even more difficult. Families are forced to examine if It makes financial sense to work. Daycare bills and take home wages can be a wash for some households.
One parents said staying home is something she's considered, but cannot do.
"I'm a single mom," she said. "I don’t have a choice. I have to work."
So, she takes her little boy here to Rainbow Daycare. It's a place she loves, despite her rising bill. Staff at Rainbow said they have no other choice.
"I have had to pass it on to my parents," said Pam Haley. "I've tried to minimize it as much as I can, because many of my parents didn't get raises."
Haley said her facility and others like it run at a three percent profit margin. It's one that cannot begin to cover changes in pay for her staff.
"I will have to close (if things get worse,)" Haley said. "It's looking like maybe two to the three years, if things don't change, we are pretty much done."
Haley said it's a common theme for multiple centers in our community, putting our most vulnerable at risk.
"It's creating a situation where children are going to be left in situations that aren't safe," she said.
Childcare advocates are working to prevent that. They are pushing Washington lawmakers to invest more than $85 million into childcare.
Childcare Aware's website says in part, "Washington’s minimum wage increase comes at a time when thousands of child care small businesses are struggling to stay open. Child care educators earn very low wages, child care center teachers turn over at a 43% rate, and 22% of child care businesses have closed since 2011. Without more public investment, continuing increases in the minimum wage will accelerate these alarming trends."
They said anyone interested in voicing concerns straight to the lawmakers that work in their community, should head to this link http://wa.childcareaware.org/about-us/advocacy.
You then can click on the words "Action Center" and it takes you to where you fill in your zip code.
If you are a parent looking into childcare for your children, here are some links you might find helpful: