kids.jpgI love that both Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump are talking about work-life challenges for women and how they’re presidential candidate parent is going to make things better, but it’s time for a reality check.

These very wealthy working mommies can get their jobs done without having to worry about affordable child care.

Chelsea recently hit the campaign trail for her mom with a nanny in tow, and Ivanka talks openly about the help her trusted nanny provides her.

By contrast, most working mothers in this country face the harsh fact that child care causes economic hardships for their families, if they’re even able to find affordable care.

A study just released called The Care Index by New America, Care.com, among others, found

“that child care is expensive, even though caregivers make poverty wages; that care can be difficult to find, and that, though quality is difficult to measure, only a handful of centers and family homes are nationally accredited for quality.”

The report is an expansive look at the struggles real working women face trying to find care for their children while still being able to do their jobs well. And it looks at the child-care providers in the country, the majority of which are low-wage women struggling to make ends meet and also provide great care.

The Care Index found:

· The average cost of full-time care in child care centers for all children ages 0–4 in the United States is $9,589 a year, higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition ($9,410). To cover the cost of full time in-center care for one child, a family earning at the median household income would need to spend one-fifth (18 percent) of its income. For an individual earning at the minimum wage, full time in-center care is even less affordable: Child care costs two-thirds (64 percent) of their earnings.

· Nationally, the cost of full-time care in child care centers is 85 percent of the monthly U.S. median cost of rent. In four states — Kentucky, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin — the cost of full-time care is more than the median rent in the state. In 11 states — Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington — and the District of Columbia, full-time care is greater than 90 percent of the typical cost of rent.

· The cost of infant care in centers is 12 percent higher than for older children, and outstrips the cost of in-state tuition and fees in 33 states. Full-time infant care in centers ranges from a low of $6,590 in Arkansas, about 15 percent of median income, to a high of $16,682 in Massachusetts, where it costs one quarter of the median income.

· The average cost of full-time care using an in-home caregiver, or nanny, is $28,353 a year. That’s equal to 53 percent of U.S. median household income, or 188 percent of income for a minimum wage earner, and is three times the average cost of in-state college tuition. Full-time in-home care costs range between $25,774 a year in Wisconsin and $33,366 a year in Washington, D.C.

· Nationally, only 11 percent of child care establishments are accredited by the National Association for the Education of the Young Child or the National Association for Family Child Care. Accredited child care centers and family homes range from a low of 1 percent in South Dakota to a high of 46 percent in Connecticut. In Washington, D.C., 56 percent of child care establishments are accredited.

· Care is most available in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Idaho, and South Dakota are among the states with the lowest availability of care.

· Care is not always available for families who need it. In South Dakota, all parents work in 82 percent of families with children under 18, the highest share of working families in the country. Yet the state has among the lowest availability of care. That suggests that working families are relying primarily on informal or “gray market” care. Utah has the lowest share of such working families, but still has a majority, 63 percent, of all parents working.

· One-fifth of families surveyed by Care.com have more than one child care arrangement, both paid and unpaid, in a typical week.

The authors — including Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and The Good Life initiative, and Alieza Durana, a policy analyst in the Better Life Lab at New America — propose

systemic change to the early care and learning infrastructure, including additional public and private investment in early care and learning; better training; pay and professionalization of the teaching workforce; as well as select innovative policy recommendations to help make high quality care more affordable and accessible to all families, including:

· Universal paid family leave

· Expanding and improving cash assistance programs

· Implementing high quality universal pre-K programs

· Focusing resources on programs aimed at dual-language learners

These are all proposals that need to be put on the table, but unfortunately they’re not getting the attention they deserve. The vice presidential debate this week spent more time on insults than the insult that is our nation’s child-care system.

Hopefully the first daughter, whomever that will be, will empathize with the majority of women out there who don’t have the same advantages, and push their parent to bolster real change.

Change for women like Monyatta Carter from Conyers, Ga., a 39 year old medical coder who struggles with child-care expenses and the quality of care for her children. She was profiled in The Care Index.

“I didn’t want to have to choose between paying for child care and paying for food,” Carter explains. “But I wanted more than just a babysitter. I want my girls to have individual attention. I want them safe. I want them to learn. I want someone to be accountable if something happens. And I want to be comfortable where I leave my kids, and not worry about them while I’m at work.”

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