Families Adjust Spending Budget To Accommodate Child Care: ‘It Costs More Than Our Mortgage'

April 2023

Parents are struggling to get help they can afford. At the same time, for day care centers, it's hard to find and keep good employees.

Original Article Lexi Wilson (WCNC) | April 12, 2023

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Child care is an issue impacting thousands of people across the country, including in the Carolinas. 

Parents are struggling to get help -- especially care they can afford. At the same time, for day care centers, it's hard to find and keep good employees. 

"You really can't underestimate how big of an issue this is," Jake House, CEO of Smart Start Mecklenburg County, said. Smart Start Mecklenburg County is an agency that helps families get access to high-quality child care.

The state of child care is in crisis, and it's impacting people like Charlotte native, Crystal White.  

"When I say it's expensive, I mean it costs more than our mortgage," White said. 

She says day care has helped her son, JR, become a social butterfly, but it's been challenging on their wallets. They spend about $1,200 a month.  

"We can't not have him in there, I work from home, my husband is a truck driver on the road a lot, we have to have it, there's no way around it," White said.  

"By the time a child is 5 years old, you could spend $70,000," House said.  "This isn't college, this is child care."

House said the pandemic exposed just how broken the child care system can be.  

"Were working on it, and I know that's a terrible answer cause it's not fair but the longer we take to work on it, the more [parents are] going to have to make false choices, like not staying in the workforce or not going for that promotion," House said.  

Right now, Gov. Roy Cooper is proposing a budget investment of $1.5 billion to child care and early childhood education. 

It's a solution that many believe could make a difference, so child care doesn't go from bad to worse and kids can continue to thrive.  

"It's going to take the state, employees, and employers to come together and figure this out," House said. 

"It's hard on all of us," White said. "The government has a way pouring their money into things they support, this should be on the forefront."

As we're seeing in almost every industry, prices continue to rise as well. Child care centers across the Charlotte region are raising tuition due to the cost of everything and to pay workers more money. 

If you're quoted a price now, it could change before your child even steps foot in the door.