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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – New parents trying to decide whether to return to work or stay at home have a difficult decision, because American child care costs are soaring.

According to Child Care Aware of America, there are some 11 million children younger than age five that are in some form of child care in the United States.

As it stands, many parents, single and married, do not have access to high-quality, affordable child care for their children. And Lynette Fraga, the director of Child Care Aware, made a disturbing comparison about how expensive it is for child care at a licensed facility. “In 28 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a 4-year public college.”

Child Care Aware numbers have the cost of infant care in Texas is $8,759 a year.

Fraga added that child care costs rival mortgage and rent payments in many states and often also exceed the cost of transportation and food. And if parents have multiple children, it can often be cheaper for adults to just stay home.

The report looked only at licensed child care facilities.

Experts say parents aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about the fiscal aspects of rising child care costs. For businesses, access to high-quality child care increases morale and employer loyalty, and conversely child care problems cost companies more than $4 billion annually.

Fraga says the stresses child care issues may bring can quickly fan out from the home, to the local economy, to the workplace. “The vast majority of children have working parents, and for those parents child care is now one of the most significant expenses in their family’s budget.”

Here in Texas, single parents can expect to pay 66-percent of their income to have two children in daycare. Married couples with two children living at the poverty line pay will pay almost 64-percent of their Texas income for child care.

You know the adage, “you get what you pay for?” Well in this case that isn’t necessarily true.  Experts say high child care costs do not automatically equal high quality child care. Estimates suggest only 10 percent of child care in the U.S. meet the quality requirements that lead to positive effects on children.

While the Child Care Aware of America report doesn’t highlight any possible solutions, it does recommend Congress take the following actions to better meet the need of America’s working families:

  • Increase significant federal investments in child care assistance
  • Provide resources for planning and developing child care capacity
  • Reduce barriers in the subsidy administration process
  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to undertake a study of high-quality child care
  • Ensure that public pre-kindergarten programs are designed to meet the developmentally appropriate child care needs of working families
  • Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC)
  • Review and consider the policy options available to help families offset the rising cost of child care
  • Simplify the process whereby families qualify for various child care tax incentives
  • Ensure that parents who are enrolled in and attend college full- or part-time are permitted to take advantage of the Dependent Care Tax Credit

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