Childcare for two children costs more than the monthly rent in most parts of the U.S.
But before you get to the cost of it, it’s important to decide whether and when you need to put your children in childcare.
Busy parents, especially newcomers to the U.S., find it difficult to accommodate their children into their work schedule. But remember, you are not the problem. This problem is the U.S.’s lack of paid leave provisions. The United States is one of the very few fully industrialized countries that don’t offer this provision to workers.
The only way to go about life without childcare bills is if you give up your work. But can you afford to give up work? The answer usually is no.
Needless to say, most couples struggle to make time for their kids. And if you don’t have your parents or other relatives to look after your children while you’re away for work, you are stuck with massive childcare bills that you can barely afford.
Either way, the most important question you will want to be answered is:
What are the different types of childcare in the U.S., and how much do they cost?
- Childcare Centers
There are two broad types of childcare centers: licensed and non-licensed. Most childcare centers are licensed and owned by individuals or chains. However, the non-licensed ones usually fall under one of these categories:
- Childcare programs in schools
- Summer camps
- Faith-based programs
- Parents’-day-out programs
The benefits of sending your child to a childcare center include the following.
- Childcare centers offer a classroom-like environment to children. Children are usually grouped together according to their age.
- They are always under the direct supervision of adults. The adults usually have prior professional training in child management.
- The biggest benefit of sending your child to a childcare center is that they’re very productive. These centers have age-appropriate activities planned for kids of all ages. Your child will learn something new every day, even before going to school.
The main flaw in these centers is that they tend to be very expensive. The average cost of a childcare center is $1,200 per month. Most parents struggle to pay the monthly childcare fee. It often exceeds the monthly rent payment.
- Family Childcare Homes
The most important thing to keep in mind with regard to a family childcare home is its license. Make sure to enroll your child into a licensed home. Licensed childcare homes follow the center-devised health and safety protocols.
Such homes can be great for child development, as they offer a homey environment and are less crowded. The number of supervisors is fewer, and so is the number of children.
Benefits of family childcare homes are:
- Home-like environment
- Smaller staff: Ensures consistency for children
- Advantageous for siblings, as children of different ages can be enrolled together
- More flexibility with hours of operation: Convenient for parents
- Less expensive than center-based childcare facilities
Even though family childcare homes fall in the expensive categ ory of childcare, they are quite reasonable compared to childcare centers. On average, a family childcare home will cost you $800 per month.
- Preschool Programs
Preschool programs not only serve the purpose of childcare for busy parents, but they also increase school readiness. Such programs are typically offered to children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.
Preschool programs help develop the following skills in your child:
- Empathy and such social skills
- Language skills: Clear speech, etc.
- Behavior regulation, problem-solving, creativity
- Self-regulation and concentration skills
Pre-school childcare programs are more affordable than other alternatives. They can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000 per month.
- School-Age Programs
School-age programs come into the picture if your child has begun school. Although there is a lesser need for such programs, they are very advantageous if your work hours extend late.
School-age programs provide childcare before and after school hours and during holidays. Local schools may, in contract with outside providers, offer such programs. Center-based childcare centers and family home childcare may also provide school-age programs.
The costs of school-age programs may differ from school to school. However, the cost is similar to that of childcare centers at an average of $1,000 to $1,200 per month.
- Family Members, Neighbors, and Friends
This is by far the most popular childcare option in all parts of the world. Your parents, siblings, cousins, friends, or even your neighbor may be willing to take care of your children during your work hours.
We trust family and friends more than strangers in childcare centers. Hence, this option is the most stress-free for parents.
It is also the most economical option, as family members usually do not need to be paid. If any payment is required to be made, it will be negligible in comparison to other childcare options. Of course, it’s always nice to demonstrate your gratitude with token gesture or offering, but treating them to dinner or the occasional gift card is different than a flat monthly fee higher than your rent payment..
Most newcomers in the U.S., and even resident middle-class families, find it extremely hard to afford childcare. About 30% of the income of an average American couple is spent on childcare bills. The system is extremely problematic. However, there is a certain government scheme which may benefit you.
If you’re a resident or a legal immigrant, you can claim U.S. refundable tax credits. These tax credits are designed as subsidies to offer financial assistance to lower-income people who wish to continue working but need financial assistance to do so. The most relevant tax credit with regard to childcare is the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Features of the Child Tax Credit (CTC):
- Under CTC, you are eligible to receive a tax refund even if you’re exempt from federal income taxes.
- To claim CTC, you must have a social security number. This ensures that only people who are lawfully eligible to work in the U.S. claim them.
- The CTC can provide you with a tax refund of up to $2,000 for each child. The amount increases every year.
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