The arrival of a baby is a joyful time. For many new parents, they are never completely prepared for the life-altering experience, especially since a baby brings with it sleepless nights and never-ending diaper changes, feedings, and bouts of crying.
Eventually, parents may settle into a routine that becomes easier over time, except for the question of who will watch the baby when they have to work. Whether the baby’s parents are together or is being raised by a single parent, childcare can be an issue. It is a dilemma that in most cases should be thought about before the baby arrives.
In some instances, parents may be able to stay home with a baby for a while without losing their job. Other times, parents may have only a short period of leave before they have to return to work. The decision is not a simple one, since parents may have concerns about safety, cost, and the physical, mental and emotional well-being of their child.
The State of Childcare in the United States
Care.com’s Cost of Care Survey found that the average weekly expenditure for an infant in daycare is $211, and $195 for a child in a family center. The US and the High Cost of Child Care report published by Child Care Aware concluded that it takes 10.6 percent of household income to cover the expense of one child placed in day care. Moreover, it requires 37 percent of a single parent’s household income to pay for the care of one child.
Without child care, many parents are unable to work and support their families. When parents cannot afford quality childcare, they may find someone who cares for children in their home. Although these individuals may be affordable, more than likely, they are not licensed so they may not follow guidelines for adequate and safe childcare.
Sometimes parents may pursue a higher paying job which may have more demands, so they can afford childcare. Assistance for poverty level working parents is available, but according to the American Enterprise Institute less than half of eligible families receive financial aid. The reasons include insufficient funding, and the unwillingness of the current government-supported childcare system to recognize a parent’s nonstandard schedule, which does not fit into traditional day care service hours.
Considerations For Choosing a Childcare Center
Child Care Aware estimates that more than 11 million children below age five are in some form of childcare in America. ChildStats.gov reports that the total number of children in the U.S. ages 0 to 5 is 24.3 million. That is about 45 percent of the child population five and under who are spending time in a child care center or home day care.
You want to make sure the day care center you choose provides a nurturing and healthy environment for your child. Foremost, a day care should be accredited to ensure that the facility complies with safety and health regulations, and employs a qualified staff. You should visit the center, and take notice of the children to determine if they look happy and comfortable.
The staff should be attentive and caring, as well as involved and willing to answer any inquiries. Ask questions such as are toys sanitized daily, is food provided, and what are the scheduled activities and the staff-to-child ratio. Additionally, learn if the child care center aligns with your parenting philosophy regarding discipline, food, and napping.
Childcare Centers Should Promote Healthy Habits and Good Behavior
Children may spend between eight to nine hours a day at a child care center. Early childhood is an important time for development and making healthy choices, meaning children in child care should learn about proper behavior and healthy choices.
If parents do not pack meals for their children, they may rely on child care centers to feed them. Meals, snacks, and liquids offered by child care centers should be nutritious, so kids can develop a positive attitude toward food. A well-balanced diet for children consists of fruits, lean meats and poultry, whole grains, vegetables, cheese, nonfat or low-fat milk. If your child has allergies or specific food requirements, such as gluten intolerance or gout, that is another important aspect to keep in mind when choosing a child care service — will this center be able to provide nutritional and safe foods to your child?
While at the child care center, children should be instructed about good behavior, and the appropriate way to act and interact. They should be taught to say please and thank you, how to take care of toys, and be exposed to the concept of sharing. Children also need to understand the importance of showing respect and helping others.
The Cost of Child Care May Impact the Prospect of Having Children
Fertility rates have dropped for the last couple of years. And, today’s young adults are having fewer children. Morning Consult for the New York Times conducted a survey to find out why young adults do not want children, or why they are not sure they want to have them.
The top explanations they reported were a desire for more leisure time and personal freedom, no partner, and that child care is not affordable. The number one factor for parents that already have children but are not having more is that child care is too expensive. Some of the other motives involved worries about financial instability.
The U.S. needs to make child care a priority so everyone can afford it. Otherwise, children of low-income parents may not be able to break the poverty cycle, and only the wealthy will be able to afford above standard childcare. Not to mention, the rate of births may continue to decline, which can lead to negatively impacting the future labor force, social security, and the economy.