Ohio children advocates continue to express concern for the increasing cost of child care, trouble staffing child care providers, low pay for those workers, and pervasive adverse childhood experiences that could be alleviated by early childhood programs.
Child care costs have been a hot topic, especially with the expiration of pandemic-era aid this past fall, including the expanded child care tax credit that advocates and politicians alike say should be instituted permanently.
A new report from Care.com showed that 47% of parents in the U.S. are spending up to $18,000 per year on child care expenses, while 1 in 5 households shell out $36,000 annually on care for their children.
The 2024 Cost of Care Report surveyed 2,000 parents of children aged 14 and younger on their household income and yearly spending on child care after the “child care cliff,” which is Care.com’s term for the end of funding for child care programs received during the pandemic, amounting to $24 billion nationwide. That funding ended in September 2023.
In terms of future impact from the end of funding, 79% of the those surveyed in the study expected to be impacted, with 54% “steeling themselves to spend $600 or more per month on child care, which totals more than $7,000 in additional care costs for 2024,” according to the study.
The First Five Years Fund, which analyzes child care and welfare data, said the cost of child care in the U.S. is currently five times higher than the national average of basic utilities, more than double the average cost of rent and nearly $12,000 higher than the average cost to attend a public four-year state university.
“Child care is one of the largest expenses most families with young children face,” said First Five Years Fund executive director Sarah Rittling, in a release on the data. “As a nation, we simply lack enough affordable, quality child care options for families.”
Not only is the cost of child care a concern, but the ability to staff child care facilities is also on advocates minds. In Ohio, the amount of child care workers in the state dropped nearly 36% from 2017 to 2022, according to Kathryn Poe, researcher for think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
The lack of workers, plus the fact that almost 40% of Ohioans live in a “child care desert” — meaning the number of child care facilities in a particular area doesn’t match the population needs — creates an environment that doesn’t allow for proper care for children, according to Poe, writing as part of a forum on child care for Crain’s Cleveland Business..
The state could get a start on improving the landscape by increasing reimbursement rates for child care workers, Policy Matters recommended.
“The median hourly wage for child care workers is just $13.15, too little to afford child care — or much else — for their own kids,” Poe wrote. “Raising reimbursement rates could help address this issue, but only if the increase comes with the requirement that funds primarily be used to raise worker pay, cover benefits and improve working conditions.”
Improving child care can only have positive impacts on child outcomes, according to health researchers.
The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has ongoing studies on “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) in the state: events like violence, abuse, and instability that can cause trauma to children. HPIO has called exposure to ACEs “a pervasive problem in Ohio and across the nation,” with their research showing that more than two-thirds of Ohioans have been exposed to an ACE.
In HPIO’s newest brief, released this month, early childhood education programs and economic supports for families were among the 12 “key strategies” to prevent ACEs in the state.
Ohio House Democrats introduced a “Thriving Families Tax Credit” in October 2023, which aims to provide a tax credit to families who are being hit with the “child care cliff” stemming from the loss of COVID-19 aid.
The bill would credit families $1,000 per year per child for children 0 to 5, and $500 per year for each child aged 6 to 17.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means on Oct. 10, but has yet to see action since then.
Attempting to boost child care funding on the federal level, the Biden administration asked Congress in November to approve additional funding specifically for child care, acknowledging the lack of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.
“As ARP funds dry up, the sector urgently needs more support as parents are at serious risk of paying more or losing access to care altogether,” the White House said in a press release at the time.
Biden has asked for $16 billion in supplemental funding “to sustain the child care sector.”
That would amount to an estimated $565 million directed to Ohio child care, impacting more than 6,000 workers in the field and more than 400,000 children in the state, according to White House estimates.
U.S. House Democrats further pushed for the measure in December, joining with coalitions of child care workers to ask Congress to move forward with the request.
The Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the funding request, but as yet, no decision has been reported.
An expansion of the federal child care tax credit might be on the way, however, as the U.S. House may vote on a bill that includes a child care tax credit, though the bill’s other parts reportedly could create roadblocks.