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Ask Chuck: Rising costs of childcare

Ask Chuck your money question

life_26528_2
In this Feb. 28, 2006, file photo, three-year-old Nathan Austin, center, dances around his classroom with teacher Jennifer Grillo-Bates, left, and classmates at the Egenolf Early Childhood Center in Elizabeth, N.J. According to a new study by the National Institutes of Health, youngsters who had quality child care before kindergarten had better vocabulary scores by fifth grade, but the more time they spent in child care, the more likely their sixth grade teachers were to report problem behaviors. |

Dear Chuck,

I am a single parent trying to manage life on a limited budget. I am extremely fearful about being unable to provide for my two children with the high cost of everything. I have a decent job, but I need to figure out how to afford childcare! It is getting crazy.

Stressed Single Mom

Dear Stressed Single Mom,

I am so sorry. This inflation has taken a toll on so many, but for single parents, it is especially difficult.

My Mom’s favorite verse was Romans 8:28. She actually had a business card with this verse printed on it and her name and phone number beneath it:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)

Before I give you my tips, I suggest that you memorize this wonderful promise. It brought my Mom through many difficult challenges.

A childcare crisis

My wife recently talked with our new dental tech and learned that she is a single mom. When asked what her biggest challenge was, she immediately answered, “Childcare. It’s so expensive.” She proceeded to tell her story of going through an unwanted divorce and living with her parents until her newborn started pre-school. Her mother cared for him during the day so that she could work. She now has her own place. Last year, she gave up childcare for financial reasons, and her 8-year-old went home to an empty house until she got off work.

Cost of childcare

Parents are concerned with the cost, availability, and quality of care for their children. Many say that we’ve gone backward in each of these areas. Care.com conducted a cost-of-care survey this year. It revealed that childcare is more expensive now for a majority of parents. Thousands of daycares closed between December 2019 and March 2021. As a result of this and the economic situation of our nation, childcare centers have increased costs and are taking fewer children.

More than half of the families in America plan to spend more than $10,000 a year on childcare. This amounts to more than the average cost of in-state college tuition. Half of the parents surveyed say they spend more than 20% of their annual household income on childcare. 72% report they spend 10% or more. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, childcare is considered affordable at 7% of the budgeted household income.

The average cost for one child per week in 2021:

  • $694 – nanny
  • $226 – childcare or day-care center
  • $221 – family care center

Childcare centers across the country are having to raise their prices. One center in Georgia reported that they have had to adjust wages for their employees to cover high gas prices and food. The cost for school supplies at centers has nearly doubled in the past year. Covid and inflation have impacted parents, children, and employees in countless ways.

Effect on parents:

  • Taking on second job
  • Reducing hours at work
  • Changing jobs
  • Leaving the workforce entirely

Choosing to not have more children

Financial advice

  • Make a budget. It is the most effective way to carefully spend less than you earn each month. This will reduce your stress and give you more options.
  • Create an emergency fund to break the debt cycle and get out of paying high-interest loans.
  • Develop a trusted support system of friends/relatives to avoid using all your sick leave.
  • Find a family-friendly job that will allow you to work from home on days you have sick children.
  • Take advantage of employers’ dependent care flexible-spending account which allows you to set aside money in pretax dollars. Here’s a link to IRS specifics.
  • Pray, and seek the help of trusted advisors: church, family, friends, or work colleagues. Get involved in a good church; they often have programs that can bring relief.

Becoming aware and available

The Body of Christ must be sensitive to the needs of single mothers, fathers, grandmothers, or grandfathers who are entrusted with raising children today. Assistance with housing, cars, insurance, legal issues, and yes, childcare, can bless generations. May God open our eyes to the needs around us. For all single parents and grandparents, may He be your source of strength and wisdom.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

 (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

While seeking the Lord’s guidance, if credit card debt is adding to your financial pain, Christian Credit Counselors is a trusted source of help toward financial freedom.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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