The first time many parents begin looking for a child care solution for their children, they are often shocked to discover the cost of day care. The cost of day care can and often does vary from one geographic region to another and may be based on several factors. For instance, supply and demand can largely influence the cost of day care in many areas of the country. In addition, parents can also typically expect to pay more for an infant’s day care than an older child due to the fact that infants require more care and supervision. Setting aside these two factors, there are still three other primary issues that affect the cost of day care. They are expenses involved, time and value.
First and foremost, day care centers must make sure all of their expenses are met. The expenses involved in operating a day care center can be immense. Such expenses can involve the salaries for staff, liability insurance and food. In addition, depending upon the situation, the owner or director of the center may also need to make certain other overhead costs are met, such as rent on a facility. In addition, there are other expenses to consider, such as utilities, cost for supplies, facility maintenance, equipment, etc. If the facility operates any type of transportation, such as a van or bus, there are costs associated with that as well. In day care centers, where an education program is offered, there are costs related to arts and crafts projects, curriculum, etc. There are also costs associated with continuing education and training for the staff of day care centers.
While parents often assume that the costs associated with day care result in a total profit for the care provider; that is certainly not the case. Providers often must provide five breakfasts, five lunches and between five and ten snacks per child per week. Depending upon the hours of the center, five dinners may also be provided in some instances. The total cost can often exceed $25 per child per week. The cost may be even higher if formula and baby foods are supplied by the provider. In addition, staffing is often a hefty expense for many child care providers, especially large capacity centers that are required by law to have additional providers on duty after specific staff to child ratio has been met. Not only must the center pay staff a salary, but they must also cover taxes and workman’s comp.
Along with expenses, time must also be considered as well. Many day care centers care for children from seven in the morning until five or six in the evening. Even when children have their nap time, day care providers must be nearby to supervise. Parents also may not realize that even when their children are not actually in the care of a day care center, the director and staff often spend additional time shopping for supplies, cleaning the center and readying activities and newsletter for the coming day or week. These are all activities that involve an extensive amount of time and preparation.
Finally, parents must consider the value factor that is involved in the cost of their day care fees. While the cost of day care may initially seem expensive, it is actually an investment in their child’s safety and future. A quality day care program can help your child learn to socialize well with others and even help him or her develop learning readiness skills that will prepare them for kindergarten. At the same time, a poor day care program will likely be much less expensive, but can potentially put your child at risk for harm. Ultimately, parents must ask themselves what they are willing to pay to make certain their child can be loved, protected, entertained, stimulated, nursed, socialized, fed, educated and changed when they cannot be there.
When selecting a care provider for your child, keep in mind that quality should be your primary concern, not cost. Cost does not necessarily dictate the type of quality you can expect from a day care center. Day care programs that spend money on their businesses and actually re-invest in their business simply are not able to operate on fees that are substandard. Take the time to find out what the average cost for day care is in your area. If you find a center that charges substantially less than that, ask yourself what kind of care and attention you can expect your child to receive for the price break.