You have set out to find the best child care possible. You may not be aware, however, just how much of the family budget, and your pay check, will be needed to cover your child care expenses.
In California, care for infants and toddlers costs an average of $700 per month, for a total of $8,400 a year. To find the right provider and keep your budget intact, there are a number of factors and choices you will want to consider.
Your child’s age is important because infants and toddlers need more specialized care, and for centers this means more caregivers per child. Centers serving preschoolers require fewer caregivers per child, so the cost can go down as much as $150 to $200 a month.
Where you live may also affect what you pay. Rates in California may vary from county to county and differ from rural to urban areas. Monthly rates also depend on hours of care and whether your child will be receiving extended day, evening, or weekend care.
Also consider additional expenses that can sometimes raise your child care costs substantially. Registration fees, charges for care during special holidays, late pickup fees, and transportation costs can add up quickly. It will also help your budget to ask ahead of time whether your caregiver allows credits for days when your child is not in care because of illness or vacation.
It’s also important to remember that the cost of care does not necessarily equate with its quality. Don’t base your assessment of a facility on the fees or on its appearance. You may be surprised to find that a flashy entrance, shiny new equipment, or squeaky-clean everything does not guarantee high-quality child care. So look beyond your first impression and ask yourself: Is this a place where my child will be safe and where the provider will give her the kind of nurturing she needs? Will she learn, be happy, and prosper here? Your child’s safety, health, and happiness are, after all, what you are paying for. Child care expenses are an investment and in most instances a necessity. However, selecting the highest quality care pays off many times over in your child’s future.
If you find yourself needing help, there are financial resources available in California. Look for subsidized child care programs that may assist you; call 1-800-KIDS-793 for information.
Depending upon your income, the state may provide assistance in paying for child care. There are several programs which pay the provider on behalf of the family. For more information, call your local child care resource and referral agency.