Quality and affordability of dependent care are key concerns, particularly for Chatham County’s low-income families. Parents face long waiting lists, high fees or inconvenient opening and closing times and lengthy travel distances between home, daycare facilities and work, according to Early Start Child Care Resources and Referral of Southeast Georgia.
While the county has more than 470 licensed child care providers of various types, only 92 are child care learning centers; among them, four are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The costs of child care also impact the rest of the family budget. According to the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies, average child care fees for an infant were higher than the average amount that families spent on food in every region of the country. Child care fees for two children at any age exceeded median rent costs and were nearly as high as or higher than the average mortgage payment.
Chatham families pay an average of $3,780 per infant per year at home-based day care facilities, and $4,800 at a learning center (where toddlers command up to $6,000 per year).
Meanwhile, area employers report that at least a quarter of unscheduled absences from work are due to family related needs, including child and elder care. Affordable, quality child care decreases absenteeism, improves worker productivity and is considered a crucial component to economic development. (See Bright from the Start’s “Economic Impact of the Early Care and Education Industry in Georgia,” at http://decal.ga.gov/