Child Care Costs Are High. What is Washington State Doing About It?

Parents are paying a lot for child care in Washington – the state ranks among the 10 most expensive in two key categories for center-based care – but policymakers and advocates are working to lessen the burden.


In a new report from Child Care Aware, Washington state ranked sixth on a list of the 10 least affordable states for infant care at centers and 10th for 4-year-old care. Child care costs are high across the country, with the average cost of infant care eating up more than “40 percent of the state median income for single mothers,” according to “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2014 Report.”


The high price of child care won’t be reduced overnight. But, Washington policymakers have been working on the problem, particularly for low-income families. They have been expanding the state’s public preschool program, for example, during the last 10 years. By 2018-19, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is expected to reach all eligible families – those at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty line – around the state.


In the coming state legislative session, advocates are hoping for more progress, including making it easier for families to preserve child care subsidies over 12 months.


Fixing the broken economics of child care isn’t only about helping parents. Businesses benefit in multiple ways, such as fewer disruptions among employees who miss work to deal with child care issues.


Studies show that increased access to quality, affordable child care raises employee morale and company loyalty, and can even save U.S. businesses as much as $3 billion a year. Moreover, exposure to quality learning environments during the earliest and most fundamental years of brain development set children up for a lifetime of success. Of children who arrive at school without the skills needed to succeed, more than 85 percent are still behind in fourth grade.

“Child Care Costs Unaffordable For Most,” media release, Child Care Aware, 12/3/14.

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