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The costly and fragile business of child care

Child care centers can't keep up with demand
Posted at 9:34 PM, Aug 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 08:57:41-04

The Jewish Community Center on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo is undergoing a second expansion in just six years.  Construction is well underway on three new classrooms and an indoor playground.  Even after these additions, there will still be a waitlist of nearly 30 families.

"We're doing our very best to keep up with demand in the city and we just can't do it," said Barbara Stone Reden, the JCC's Early Childhood Director.

Stone Reden attributes the demand to families moving into the city to start their families.

"It's a very exciting time to be in Buffalo. But finding quality child care is a real challenge for families," Stone Reden told 7 Eyewitness News. 

 Monthly full-time tuition at the JCC for a child six weeks to 18 months old is nearly $19,000 per year.  The price drops as the child gets older.  

More broadly, New York State figures show the average cost of child care across Erie County is about $12,000 per year.  

It's a costly program to run.

 "The margins in child care are so tight. If you don't get that percentage right, your business closes," said Amanda Kelkenberg, CEO of the Child Care Resource Network. 

So the problem is two-fold: parents can barely afford the pricey tuition, and providers can barely pay their staff more than minimum wage.  

According to a 2018 study by the Child Care Resource Network, 60% of parents surveyed reported struggling to pay for child care.  One fifth of parents had to withdraw their child from care because of the cost.

Kelkenberg believes affordability is a system issue. She says the system needs more money.

"We need to be looking at funding and we need to be looking at breaks for families in terms of tax credits," Kelkenberg says.

Stone Reden agrees that more funding at a variety of levels within the child care system would improve providers' ability to give children quality child care.