By Steve Pickett

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DALLAS (CBS11) – Alice Patricio calls it a gift.  Her daughters received early access to an education program, and she only paid $35 per week for it.

“I’m very fortunate, because childcare is very expensive,” the mother of four said Friday afternoon, while she tended to 3-year-olds inside the East Dallas Early Childhood Center, where she works as a teaching assistant.

Patricio is eligible for assistance based on her income level.

For thousands of other North Texas families, $10,000 a year or more is not out of the ordinary for child care costs.

“I believe child care is an infrastructure issue that is as important to our community as new roads, because we have to have childcare in order for families to go to work,” said Tori Mannes, CEO of ChildCareGroup.

The Dallas-based nonprofit operates six early education centers for families earning annual income below the federal poverty level.

Ten-thousand other working families receive financial assistance to subsidize childcare expenses.

Mannes said the rising costs of child care in North Texas affects children of every income level.

“The struggle for working parents is the childcare average cost is between $7,000 and $9,000 a year. So no matter where you are on the income scale, that’s a lot of your family income,” Mannes said.

ChildCareGroup faces a long waiting list of families trying to gain financial assistance, but several corporate child care operations won’t accept subsidies.

Mannes said North Texas’ economic growth depends upon families finding quality affordable childcare centers.

Alice Patricio found a place for her children that’s operated by the agency that hired her.

“I can earn a living, and I have great place for my children,” she said.