Child care costs rising faster than family incomes

Written by Observer editorial reports January 17, 2012 08:14 pm

The cost of child care continues to rise but wages in Oregon have remained flat or increased only slightly over the past decade.

The result is “a crisis for families,” according to researchers at Oregon State University in a report that looked at child care in every Oregon county.

The report says child care prices, on average, increased 7 percent more than family incomes from 2004 to 2010. The findings are even worse for single parents, whose child care prices increased 14 percent more than their incomes during the same period.

Fortunately, it costs much less for child care in Eastern Oregon than Western Oregon.

Annual toddler care in Union County costs an average of $4,888 and in Wallowa County $2,788, while in Washington County the average is $10,400.

But many parents of young children in Eastern Oregon make minimum wage and earn only about $17,000 per year, making even low-cost child care difficult to afford.

The state offers financial assistance to help struggling parents pay for child care through the Employment Related Day Care Program. But the state decided to cap the number of participants at 9,000 because of budget shortfalls. So many families who meet the program’s income guidelines can’t join the program.

That means thousands of families across Oregon continue to face child care costs that are climbing faster than their incomes and something needs to be done about it.

Oregon’s employers should be encouraged to provide resources for parents who can’t afford child care.

Meanwhile, the state should look for additional funding for its Employment Related Day Care Program and remove the cap so that all eligible families get the help they need.