We’ve brought you all kinds of news on the current financial crunch. Well, here’s a new twist: Parents having to choose between paying their bills and paying for childcare! According to the Associated Press, it costs between $3,000 and $11,000 a year to send just one preschooler to daycare, and paying for two kids costs some families more than their rent or mortgage. Now that prices for food and other necessities have jumped to record levels, and layoffs and cutbacks are common, parents are suddenly faced with the choice of paying for food, heat and electricity – or being able to afford daycare.
The result: Parents are putting their kids in daycare only part time, those who’ve been laid off are pulling their kids out of daycare until they find a job, and parents working two jobs – or working the night shift to make extra money – have started leaving kids with their grandparents.
Childcare providers are worried. The waiting lists at most daycare centers are long gone and younger siblings no longer automatically replace the kids who move on to kindergarten. The fact is, a lot of daycare centers are scrambling for children and struggling to make ends meet. Which is why a lot of them are offering part-time services for the first time, or adjusting their hours to accommodate the growing number of parents working odd hours. It’s also hard on the kids. Childcare providers say that when a child’s friends unexpectedly stop coming to daycare, they don’t understand what’s happening and they get all stressed out, cry a lot more, and act out much more than usual – which makes it harder on everybody. Experts are also worried that financially strapped parents will put their kids in cheaper, unlicensed facilities. Centers that are little more than waiting rooms, and aren’t particularly safe. Or that desperate parents will make choices they’ll later regret. Like the woman who couldn’t find daycare for her 4-year-old. So when she went to work, she left the girl in her car with water and a sandwich, and checked on her every hour. She has since been charged with child endangerment.