Providing Childcare for Preschool Children in the U.S.

Today, adapting to childcare programs may be an intrinsic part of a child’s life beginning at birth and continuing through third grade and perhaps beyond. Occasionally, friends gather together and care for children in each other’s homes when their work schedules can be coordinated. In some of our nation’s native cultures, grandparents and other family members are accustomed to providing the care of their newly born relatives. Many grandparents want to care for their grandchildren. Sadly, some grandparents must continue working today. Many live far from their children and cannot afford to move unless there is living space in their grandchildren’s homes. In most cases, children would prefer the care of a relative or family friend rather than in a childcare center.

In the current economy, many parents cannot sacrifice work hours in order to care for their children. Their salaries are crucial to pay the cost of living including food, healthcare, housing and more.  A  Too Small to Fail survey found that 66% of parents said that the inaccessibility of childcare was a serious problem in their lives. Across the U.S., almost 11 million children aged four and under are in a daycare programs. Yet many of these children may be at risk of abuse and neglect as there is no federal standard for licensing childcare.  Laws vary from state to state. There are also drastic price differences between states. The annual fee for childcare in Mississippi averages about $3,900; but in Massachusetts it’s closer to $15,000. Paying for such a pricey necessity is difficult for parents.

With many terms being used to describe daycare and early education, it’s important to clarify the differences. Parents seeking a day care center for their child should be aware of the distinguishing factors between daycare and early education.

Early education or– as it’s commonly known– preschool is different in many ways from daycare. Preschools often emphasize preparation for kindergarten.  Their focus includes developing and strengthening a child’s skills in communication in a group led by a teacher, on keeping focused on a group activity from start to finish, and on keeping calm in the classroom. However, preschools often have shorter operating hours and are closed for the summer and holidays. They may only accept children within the age range of three to five years. 

Day care centers have longer hours, which can be beneficial for parents who are unable to care for their children due to work and other issues. Additionally, daycares often don’t limit the age ranges of the children that they accept into their program.

The two can often tend to be in relatively similar price ranges, depending on their location and quality. Parents have to consider what exactly they are looking for in a child care program before settling on either one or the other.

Here are some programs that make childcare more affordable.

Federal refundable tax credits; the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows guardians to claim up to $3,000 for childcare expenses. Here is more information.

Federal Block Grants; the Child Care and Development Block Grant helps almost 2 million children across the United States. Sadly, this is a small percentage of eligible children.

Individual states have passed legislation requiring that public schools to offer a day care program or provide space for one. Some states designate certain tax funds or support charitable fund raisers to help pay for childcare.

The Child Care Resource Center offers subsidy programs and financial assistance for guardians to pay for childcare.

A Federal Competitive Program called Race to the Top  offers large financial grants to improve the standards of early learning programs statewide.  Winning states receive approximately $500 million dollars, and runners-up share approximately $130 million.

Some African groups, and European and Asian countries either have or are strengthening their childcare programs. They know that early education is an important beginning of child’s development and education in today’s technical world.  U.S. children should have this opportunity too.







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