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Child care cost and availability is holding families back according to a survey

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

A survey shows that child care cost and availability is holding families back in the First State.

The survey conducted by a coalition of advocacy groups finds care and education for children under five in Delaware is difficult, costly, and burdensome for families with high prices for tuition, long waitlists, and few options reported.

The survey reports 81% of caregivers say child care expenses hold their family back from improving their situation and 46% say child care is their biggest monthly expense.

The survey also finds that 32 percent of respondents say child care contributes to their debt.

And on the provider side, there are significant staffing issues. 60% of providers responding say they have trouble hiring and retaining staff resulting in classroom closures.

Children and Families First CEO Kirsten Olson says those closures affect access to child care.

”71% - so almost 3/4 of families - looked into two or more options for their child, and more than a third ended up on a waitlist not just at one center but at two or more,” said Olson. “And some families were turned away outright without even being put on a waitlist. So we're looking at families who are unable to access health care for their kids which then has implications for their ability to get to work and school."

63% of survey respondents say they would either return to work or increase hours if they found consistent, quality child care.

Gov. Carney recently proposed spending nearly 30-million dollars to expand access to early child education for lower-income families while using state money to boost salaries for early childhood educators.

Children and Families First Kirsten Olson CEO says those proposals would help.

"We're looking at investments in purchase of care which is the state funded subsidy for childcare. So by increasing the investment more families can be served, and we're also looking at expanded eligibility so folks with higher incomes would be eligible to access that subsidy that's huge," said Olson.

But Olson adds Carney’s plan should just be a start, noting a lot more investment is still needed to increase access, affordability, and quality in early child care.

Rodel, the Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children, Delaware Readiness Teams, and the First State Pre-K coalition were among the advocacy groups conducing the survey.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.