The cost of child care for families is rising around the nation, increasing at eight times the rate of a family’s income in some places, but Washington state is working to make it more affordable for low-income parents.
In 2012, a U.S. family paid, on average, between $4,863 and $16,430 for a year of full-time infant care, according to a report released last year by Child Care Aware of America. In every state, the cost of care at a center for a family with an infant and a four-year-old child exceeded median rents, the group said.
The cost of high-quality care is one of the highest barriers for working families. In Washington, recent developments will lower that barrier by making high-quality child care more affordable for low-income families.
The Department of Early Learning, for example, recently expanded its free preschool program for low-income and at-risk families by awarding 1,350 new spots to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Programs (ECEAP) around the state.
Washington is also improving the quality at ECEAP preschools by using this expansion to create full-day spots that use proven curriculum and offer support to families. In addition, the state plans to combine ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care funds to support extended days for children of working families.
“Children who have high-quality preschool are much better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond,” said Dr. Bette Hyde, the director of the state Department of Early Learning. “We are so grateful to the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee for recognizing the need to expand access and quality to state-funded preschool in the years to come.”
And a new report shows that ECEAP is helping prepare students for kindergarten.
In the fall of 2012 (the latest data available), about half the [ECEAP enrollees] had the skills expected for their age in social-emotional development, language, literacy and cognitive development. A little over a quarter reached that level in math.
By the end of the year, teachers reported that more than 90 percent reached what is expected in all those areas except math, which ended in the mid-80s.
—“Is preschool effective? Some good signs for incoming class of 2028.” Education Lab Blog, The Seattle Times, 7/8/14.