According to the 2013 Child Care Aware report, the highest cost for American families is now their child care. In the past, it was housing, but according to the report, the majority of the country is now paying more to send their child to a facility for care than they are for housing.
Nationwide, the average cost for childcare is $12,000. In Pennsylvania, it costs, on average, $10,319 to get infant care.
The high prices are impacting the kind of care families can give their kids.
"We're kind of forcing families, in some cases, into making some decision about what they're going to do with their children that really aren't to the advantage of families or children," says Ann Walker, the executive administrator at the Child Development and Family Council of Centre County.
Walker says she's seeing a lot more families coming in seeking financial assistance for child care.
"In general, with the economic climate, people have either lost their jobs or their jobs have kind of stayed the same," says Walker. "We're not seeing the same increase income but all these other costs go up. So your housing goes up; your food needs go up; your health care; and certainly your childcare costs goes up."
According to the most recent ChildCare Aware Report, Pennsylvania is in the top 20 for least-affordable child care for infants, children up to 4 and school aged children.
Walker says, due to this, she is seeing families trying to be creative with how to afford childcare and how to provide it.
Aaron Bennett and his wife are two of those people.
"When we first got pregnant, we were really excited, of course," says Aaron Bennett, a father of two children - a 2-year-old boy and a 3-month-old girl. "Then we started thinking SWell how are we going to afford this?'."
The Bennetts starting looking at their budget.
"When we started adding up the cost of diapers and wipes and baby food and things like that, we just said there's no way we can do this on just my income," says Bennett.
Bennett's wife was set to graduate from cosmetology school soon after giving birth. They decided she would start working and they would send their son to daycare. So the couple began looking into the cost of local childcare providers.
"It floored us when we looked at how expensive it would be!" says Bennett recalling the process of looking around for care. "We just said 'Oh my gosh, there's no way we can afford that.'"
Bennett says for the first year or so, the couple worked crazy shifts so someone could always be with their son. Bennett, who is working on his PhD at Penn State, says he would come in at 5 a.m. some days just to get a full day in before having to go home and take care of his infant son. He says that wasn't working though so they applied for a government subsidy and luckily received it.
"When you're in these young years and you have these small kids, the weight of providing for a family can be really huge," says Bennett.
He says overall, their experience with childcare has been very positive and his 2-year-old is really benefiting from interacting with other children and being in a classroom environment.
Walker says she thinks the time for reforming the childcare system is now. She says she feels Congress is tackling this issue now because people are starting to see a positive relationship between childcare programs, doing well in school, getting better jobs and giving back to local economies.
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