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Report Details Rising Costs of Child Care Across the Nation

Did you know that in most states in 2011, the average annual cost of center-based child care for infants was more than 10 percent of a given state's median income for a two-parent family?

Or that in 35 states and Washington, D.C., the average annual cost for center-based child care for babies was higher than one year of in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college?

Those are just a couple of the statistics from a new report examining the costs of child care in the United States. The report released by Child Care Aware of America, a membership organization formerly known as the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, details what families paid for full-time child care in 2011, including average fees for child-care centers and home-based care.

It's based on data provided by Child Care Resource and Referral agencies throughout the country and market surveys conducted by states, according to the report.

It may not be news that child care costs are rising even as the slow recovery of the economy is making it more difficult for parents to afford quality care. But what's disturbing, the report notes, is that rising costs may be forcing some parents to remove their kids from licensed programs and place them in less expensive, informal settings that may not meet health and safety standards or promote healthy child development.

And there's not much financial relief available. Federal funds used by states to subsidize child care for low-income families reaches one out of six eligible kids in the country, the report said. Plus, about one-fifth of those kids receiving assistance monthly are in unregulated settings.

So what's to be done?

Child Care Aware is "calling on Congress to review state child-care policies to ensure that federal dollars for child care are only spent in safe, quality settings."

Among its other recommendations: Require federal officials to define minimally acceptable quality child care for families and to study the real costs of care so that financing recommendations to support families can be developed; re-authorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, along with extra requirements to improve the quality of child care; and invest in local referral agencies so they have more resources to help local providers become licensed and meet care standards.

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