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Parents pushed to their limits over rising child care costs, limited access to care

Child care crisis straining parents
Rising costs, limited access to quality child care is forcing parents to make tough decisions 04:45

Millions of American families are burdened by the high costs of child care, spending over 25% of their incomes on care — when they can find it. Since the coronavirus pandemic, many facilities across the country have closed or faced challenges in rehiring workers.

With costs high and access scarce in many places, parents are being pushed to their limits.

Amelia Emmanuel, a 33-year-old working mother and college student, commutes an hour every morning so her 4-year-old daughter can go to a daycare on Boston's south side. Emmanuel, a single mom and low-income earner, managed to secure a voucher through her state, reducing her weekly daycare costs from $250 to just $11.35. However, she faced the challenge of finding eligible locations that accepted the voucher. 

"If you don't have child care, then you now have to stay home. If you have to stay home, then you can't work. If you can't work, you have no income," she said. 

Rising costs have become a widespread concern, with Massachusetts leading the nation in childcare costs. On average, an infant's care surpasses the expenses of some colleges, reaching over $20,000 annually, as reported by Child Care Aware, a national network of child care resources and referral agencies. 

In addition to costs, access is a problem in many parts of the country. More than 50% of Americans live in child care deserts, where there's either no care or licensed slots are insufficient to meet demand. States such as Utah, Nevada, New York and West Virginia face particularly dire conditions, according to research conducted by the American Progress organization, a public policy research and advocacy organization. 

The crisis is pushing parents to their limits. In Outagamie County, Wisconsin, with a population of nearly 200,000, over 1,200 children remain on a waitlist for available child care slots, according to the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation. 

Confronted with the closure of their local daycare facility, working mothers Virginia Moss and Tiffany Simon took matters into their own hands. They purchased the building and, within two months, opened Joyful Beginnings Academy, enrolling 75 children and employing 20 daycare workers. 

The facility now has a waitlist of almost 100 children. 

"We've seen both sides, we felt the pain, both sides. Now we can go and try to get others to understand and educate that this is a problem, and we need to do something about it," Moss said.

For families who rely on the facility, the alternative would have been dire. Selling homes, moving in with family or even leaving jobs were considered last resorts. 

"I think it's bonded our community together, especially living in a neighborhood with a lot of little kids," said one community member. "We all kind of went through this struggle together." 

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