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Daycare costs becoming too much

Baby under blanket

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW:

I have it on good authority that Santa Claus is still planning to make his run this year. He never takes a year off. But he is concerned about the costs facing parents.

Beyond feeding the kids and clothing them, there's saving for college -- that's a biggie -- and daycare. The cost of childcare is outpacing inflation. That leaves parents with a tough call: Find more money or find another way to care for their children.

Jaime Bedrin has this story from New York.


JAMIE BEDRIN: Got $15,000? You'll need it in most parts of the U.S. if you're going to put an infant into full-time daycare for a year.

Julie Landweber and her husband are professors in New Jersey. She says the cost of keeping their son in daycare is higher than tuition at her husband's college. Daycare gobbles up 10 percent of their income, and it's making it hard for them to save.

JULIE LANDWEBER: We've always been very good savers. And he's been in this daycare now for a little over a year. And we saved almost no money last year, outside of retirement.

High costs have ruled out daycare for Jennifer Lauchlan and her partner Kate. Jennifer is a librarian in Washington, D.C. Kate teaches. Jennifer says daycare wasn't out of the question with one child, then they had their second.

Jennifer Lauchlan: Should we have both kids in daycare? Or, what are our other options. And when we looked at the cost of the daycare for two kids, it was staggering.

Lauchlan says the cost wipes out one salary almost entirely. It made more sense for one of them to stay home with the kids. But Lauchlan says supporting a family on a librarian's pay is a challenge.

Lauchlan: It does impact both the way that we live day-to-day, and it also is a stressful thing.

The family is now living on a tight budget. They clip coupons and buy generic cereal. They're even babysitting a few days a week to help make ends meet.

Mark Gavagan wouldn't even consider private childcare. He's a day-trader in New Jersey. His wife's a consultant. They've planned their schedules so that one of them is always home with the couple's two daughters.

Mark Gavagan: All the time, I think, Boy, if I had more hours a week to put into my business efforts, I would be much more successful. But at the same time, the dividends that we receive from this arrangement, while not helping us financially, are helping us in every other way.

None of these people feel that childcare professionals should be paid less -- they do a vital job in raising kids. But for people with modest incomes, the cost of private childcare is becoming impossible to absorb. Julie Landweber, the professor, believes daycare teaches kids valuable social skills. She likes the idea of a public preschool or national daycare like they have in other countries.

LANDWEBER: I also think that it should be partially or fully taxpayer covered. And that would mean higher taxes, but I think that we would benefit as a society from it.

But there are no plans in the works for any kind of public daycare, which means Landweber and others like her will have to continue to pay up if they want to work full-time and have children.

Landweber says she's looking forward to her son's first day of kindergarten. It's free.

In New York, I'm Jaime Bedrin for Marketplace.

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