In this article we're going to discuss where the money you spend on child care actually goes.
Believe it or not, for your average American family of 3 or more, child care expenses are 4th, right behind housing, food and taxes. Because child care is so expensive, the parents paying for this care think that the providers and centers themselves are rolling in dough. The sad truth is, this is just not the case. So hopefully this article will give you a pretty good idea of where your child care dollars go.
The first and probably most important part of good child care is having enough qualified people to run a child care center. The younger the children at the care center are the more people that are needed to take care of them because very young children need individual attention, unlike centers with older children that can work in groups or are even independent. It is because of this need that personnel costs at a care center can be as much as 50% or more of their total budget and operating expenses. The other 50% is taken up by space, or the rent or mortgage on the building, insurance, teaching supplies, snacks, and utilities.
Over the years these fixed costs have risen dramatically with the price of food, oil and insurance skyrocketing because of fraud, arson and other criminal activities. In spite of this, the fees that the centers charge have remained pretty much the same when adjusted for inflation. To translate that into numbers, that means that child care teachers salaries have dropped 25% since the 1970s.
The sad fact is, the salaries paid to child care workers are way below what they should be making and because of that, it is hard to find highly qualified people. In 1995 it is estimated that child care teachers earned about $15,000 per year on the average, which is not much over the poverty level. Assistant teachers were only making an average of $11,000 per year in the same time period. Even in comparison to the teachering profession in elementary schools, these salaries are considered low.
It is because of these low salaries that staff turnover at care centers is so high. This should be a concern for parents because high turnover prevents their children from getting the personalized care that they are entitled to. With high turnover the relationship between caregiver and child is usually very impersonal and cold. This is not a good environment for your child. As a result of this a child's language and social skills develop slower than with children who get proper care.
The solution to this problem is to work with government to get proper funding for these facilities and also to work with the facilities themselves. Get all the information you can about the facility in your area. Find out if the teachers have paid sick leave and benefits. If not, campaign for these things. Make your voice heard. Let those responsible for funding these facilities know that you're not satisfied with the level of care.
You may be surprised to find out that there are people in government who will listen, especially if they have children themselves.