The report this article is based on can be found at: http://health.oregonstate.edu/sbhs/family-policy-program/occrp-childcare-dynamics-publications
CORVALLIS, Ore. - The cost of child care in Oregon continues to rise even as wages decline, especially for the state's most fragile families.
According to a new Oregon State University report looking at child care in the state and in every Oregon county, child care prices increased 13 percent from 2004 to 2012 while household incomes declined 9 percent.
The average annual cost of toddler care in a child care center in Oregon is now $11,064, up from $10,392 in 2010. Nationally, the cost of child care continues to rise, with child care expenditures taking a higher percentage of household income in 2011 than in 2005. Child Care Aware of America lists Oregon as the third most expensive state for infant child care (price as a percentage of income) in the nation.
"Families struggle to provide children the experiences they want for them," said Bobbie Weber, a faculty research associate at the Family Policy Program in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences and author of the report. Weber issues a new report every two years on child care in Oregon.
Survey findings show the majority of Oregonians rely on a parent, relative or close friend to care for their children. This is even the case for preschoolers (ages 3 to 4), which is the group with the highest rate of "organized care," or care in a center or family child care home. More than 55 percent of those children are either at home with a parent or in an "informal" setting, such as with a relative or friend of the family.
"There is a perception that the majority of our kids are in a child care center or preschool, and it simply isn't true," Weber said. "For policy reasons, we need strategies to support children who are in home settings with parents, relatives, or others. Parents and caregivers need to have easy access to information and strategies for making children successful if we are to reach the goal of all children being ready for kindergarten."
Weber said interventions have shown that home visiting programs, where an educator visits a home and provides information and resources to the adult and child alike, as well as Play and Learn groups, or community-based settings for child providers and kids to come together and work with a trained educator, have proven successful.
While there are subsidies available for those earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, parents have to pay part of their child care fees and that amount rises as incomes rise. Over the last few years, budget cuts have constrained how many families can be served. In 2012, approximately 13,000 children were served each month by the Employment Related Day Care Program, slightly more than half the number served in 2009.
"A lot more people are getting engaged and becoming aware of the struggles facing parents," Weber said. "We are seeing increases in some of the programs that support children and families. It is likely that funds will be restored to the child care subsidy program and there will be an increase in Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten. Both programs enable low income families to access learning opportunities for their children."
This year, an interactive map is available that allows people to find out about child care and education in their elementary school area, school district, or county. The map is available at: http://health.oregonstate.edu/occrp-map. Maps were produced by Jes Mendez of the Oregon Employment Department.
Weber is a member of Gov. John Kitzhaber's Early Learning Council, which has been tasked to design the most effective early-childhood system, one that will ensure children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn.
A full report and map for each county in Oregon can be found at: http://bit.ly/13DzxbL
Some of the county findings include:
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Bobbie Weber, 541-737-9243