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Forget saving for college for your newborn, day care will be more expensive
According to a new study, putting your child in day care may be more expensive than college tuition.
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The annual average in Virginia was $8,622. Locally, the average weekly rate locally ranged from $118 in Caroline and King George to $160 in Stafford. That translates to $6,163 a year in Caroline and King George and $8,320 a year in Stafford.
Stafford also has the most day care programs run out of homes--82 compared to 32 child care centers, according to data provided by The Childcare Network's Fredericksburg office. King George has only eight home-based day care providers, the lowest number locally, and four day care centers.
Day care centers in Virginia have to be licensed by the state, unless they are operated by a church and seek an exemption. The Code of Virginia mandates the licensure of family day homes if they provide care for six to 12 children (exclusive of the provider's own children and any children who reside in the home).
Currently, this area has 77 licensed child care centers, 22 religious-exempt centers and one military-approved center. It also has 112 licensed family child care centers, 97 that are unregulated and 24 that are voluntarily registered.
"Licensing is one of the things that makes a program better," said Regina Maloney, director of The Childcare Network's Fredericksburg office. "If it's state-licensed, the staff have to have high-quality training throughout the year, and you're more likely to find trained staff."
Yet some parents still feeling the effects of the recession are switching from licensed child care to more informal forms of care to help make ends meet, according to Child Care Aware's report. It points out that there are no checks for basic health and safety standards and other practices that promote healthy child development.
"The high cost of child care forces parents to make difficult decisions," the report said. "Parents want quality child care for their children. Unfortunately, safety, health and school readiness comes at a cost that many parents cannot afford."
Child Care Aware is asking Congress to review state child care policies to ensure that the money it provides states through Child Care and Development Block grants is spent only in safe, quality settings. When the grant was last authorized in 1996, its primary goal was to subsidize low-income families' monthly cost of child care so they could work. The quality of care, the report said, came in a distant second.
Day care centers and home-based providers also took a hit during the recession, Maloney said. A few closed or switched hands, and some lowered their prices.
Rates have risen since then, and are now higher than they were before the economy took a nose dive. Local rates in 2009, for example, ranged from $120 a week for day care centers in Caroline to $195 a week in the city of Fredericksburg.
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Parents can search for day care providers on The Childcare Network's website, thechildcarenetwork .org. Regina Maloney, director of the group's Fredericksburg office, said that while there appears to be an adequate supply of day care locally, all are not created equal.
"Is it really good child care or is it just there?" she said. "Nationally, about one-third is really high quality, one-fourth to one-third is not good and the rest are in the middle."
She recommends checking inspection reports on the network's website for any licensed facilities that parents are considering, and finding out who their child's teachers will be.
"I've always told parents that the No. 1 consideration is the person that is taking care of your child day-to-day, not the building."
Day care center
In-home day care
* The Childcare Network averaged Caroline's and King George's statistics together.
** Orange, Culpeper and Madison's statistics also were averaged together.