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Child Care

No family should pay more than they can afford for the child care they need and their baby deserves.

Child care is an essential building block in the foundation of our families’ and nation’s future. Access to affordable, high-quality care ensures parents can go to work and school confident that their babies and toddlers are receiving equitable, nurturing early learning experiences.

Early learning means children begin kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. Increasing access helps more babies and toddlers, including those with delays and disabilities, get the developmental support they need.

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    In most states, the cost of child care exceeds the cost of college tuition.

    Why It Matters

    The high cost of out-of-home child care in America is a burden for most families. And despite the high costs, the majority of early childhood educators are significantly underpaid for the highly-skilled work they do.

    For many families, grandparents and other friends or family members fill a critical need providing regular child care that is trusted, affordable, and accessible. In fact, one in four children under age 5 are cared for by grandparents while their parents work or attend school. Getting child care right means supporting all caregivers, whether paid or unpaid. 

    By the Numbers

    When parents lack safe, high-quality child care, they either can’t work or risk leaving their children in unsafe or poor-quality settings. Neither is a good alternative. Parents exit the workforce and leave gaping holes in the economy, supply chains, and essential services. The system is fundamentally broken, and the healthy development of our children is at stake. 

    +50%

    More than half of children under the age of 3 spend time each day cared for by someone other than a parent. 

    $12

    The average child care provider in the US makes $12 per hour and most do not receive benefits. 

    56%

    On average, Black families in the US spend 56 percent of their income on child care, reflecting past and present systemic racism and barriers to critical resources. 

    17%

    Just 17 percent of qualifying families and only 4.2 percent of families with low to moderate income who could benefit actually receive child care assistance they qualify for.

    $12

    The average child care provider in the US makes $12 per hour and most do not receive benefits. 

    Sources: ZERO TO THREE (2017, September 6). Infant-toddler child care talking points. Long, H. (2021, September 19). ‘The pay is absolute crap’: Child-care workers are quitting rapidly, a red flag for the economy. The Washington Post. Novoa, C. (2020, June 29). How child care disruptions hurt parents of color most. Center for American Progress. U.S. Government Accountability Office (2021, February 18). Child care: subsidy eligibility and receipt, and wait lists.

    Our Impact

    ZERO TO THREE has a proven track record improving the state of child care in our country. Our Critical Competencies for Early Childhood Educators courses help staff, organizations and agencies create a knowledgeable workforce.

    Our Think Babies campaign is advocating for Congress to pass comprehensive child care legislation similar to the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would provide affordable, high-quality child care for families with low and moderate income as well as provide training for early childhood educators to improve the quality of their care. 

    Child care teacher feeding infant in high chair

    Help us make affordable, high-quality child care a reality for families across the country.

    Unlike K-12 education, which is largely funded through public dollars, the United States places the majority of the burden for paying for child care on parents of young children, subsidized by the low wages of the early educators who provide care.

    Related Resources

    Quality child care prepares babies for future learning and success.

    When babies don’t get what their growing brains need to thrive, they don’t develop as they should. This leads to lifelong developmental, educational, social, and health challenges.