"Get a job" is easier said than done for many parents of preschool-age children.
Dropping off a child at a day care center can cost a full-time, minimum-wage worker about a third of pre-tax income. That would leave a meager $784 a month for rent, food, clothes, transportation and other essentials.
If society expects these parents to avoid welfare and go to work, it should do more to ensure that affordable child-care options are available.
According to the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama, a non-profit group that is celebrating its 40th anniversary, quality child care can keep families working and ensure that children get the good start that is so essential for being successful in life.
Children who do not master reading by the end of third grade face a far greater chance of dropping out of high school, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. A quality day care center can lay the groundwork for a child to become a good reader. It also can help children learn essential social,
physical, emotional and intellectual skills.
But costs to parents, especially single parents, and the lack of quality day care centers, is a problem.
The average annual day care cost for a 4-year-old in Alabama is $5,668, according to Child Care Aware of America. That compares to $7,993 for the average annual in-state tuition and fees at a four-year college.
Natilee McGruder, organization developer for the Federal of Child Care Centers of Alabama, said affordable care is the No. 1 child-care concern in the state. About 300,000 children under the age of 5 in Alabama live in households with working parents.
Only about a third of the children who qualify for child-care subsidies receive them.
"When people can't take their kids to child care, they can't go to work," McGruder said. "We want people to work, but we have to provide safe, affordable places to take their kids."
On the federal level, the government should do more to provide grants to states that improve their early learning programs. The government also should expand the federal tax credit for parents who pay for child care. On the state level, legislative leaders should invest more into improving the quality of child care
and making it more affordable.
A solid investment in quality child care services today can help future adults break the cycle of dependence upon government aid.
Not registered? Click here
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|