Benton County ranks as the second-most expensive county in Oregon for child care, with an average annual cost of $10,497. Only Washington County, at $11,880, costs more.
Child care costs have increased significantly during the last decade in Oregon, while wages have remained flat or increased slightly, and a new report studying child care in Oregon found that the cost of child care increased 7 percent more than family incomes between 2004 and 2010.
The average annual cost of toddler care in Oregon is $10,392, a figure that ranks it the seventh most expensive state in the nation for child care, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.
“What we found is that the cost of child care correlates to the rental and housing values,” Bobbie Weber, a faculty research associate in the Family Policy Program at Oregon State University, said Tuesday “So higher-cost living does seem to have an impact.”
Weber co-authored the report, “Child Care and Education in Oregon and Its Counties: 2010,” along with Becky Vorpagel, an independent consultant for the Oregon Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
Weber also is a member of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Early Learning Council, which is working to design an effective early-childhood education system that ensures children will enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Jan East founded Little Beavers Preschool, off Highway 99W, in 1973. It offers a infant/toddler child care program, which costs $895 a month or about $10,750 per year. About 60 infants and toddlers are enrolled there.
East said several factors influence Little Beavers’ rates, mainly state regulations. She said that when Little Beavers opened, there wasn’t a state child care division.
“Now there’s regulations such as what you need to be teaching children, safety laws and how many staff members there are for every number of students.”
East also said that it costs money to hire and retain qualified staff.
“When they say it takes a village to raise a child, it’s so true,” East said. “It really is a group effort.”
As a result, East said Little Beavers’ rates tend to change every year and half. She said she doesn’t anticipate any increases next year.
Carrie Hector, the director of Small World School on Division Street, said that her child care center’s rate increases usually are tied to minimum wage regulations.
Small World School charges $900 a month for full-time child care.
Hector said that the poor economy is one of the main reasons that fewer people are electing to enroll their children in child care centers or early education programs.
“When the economy was booming, we were at capacity, which is 45 to 49 children,” Hector said. “Now we are at about half of that.”
Hector said that Small World School always has worked with parents to come up child care programs that fit what families need or can afford. For example, it offers part-time child care programs.
“It’s something we are going to work on even more now,” Hector said. “Peoples’ situations are changing, so we are trying to meet their needs.”
Other key findings of the “Child Care and Education in Oregon and Its Counties: 2010” report include:
• The average minimum-wage worker is spending almost 60 percent of his or her income on child care.
• Rural counties in general suffer from a lack of resources. Many rural areas do not have enough family day care providers or child care centers to meet the needs of the communities.
• In the average child care center, teachers earn between $9 and $13 an hour, even though many have post-secondary education in their field. Finding qualified workers willing to work for near-minimum wage salaries poses a challenge for centers.
• More than half of parents reported that their children did not get a lot of individual attention in their child care and 46 percent said the arrangement was not ideal for their child. Almost 19 percent said their children do not feel safe and secure at their day care facility.
• Low-income families are finding ways — by recruiting relatives, for example — to avoid having to pay child care expenses. The report noted a 7 percent drop since 2004 in those who report using paid care. However, the number of children and low-income families in Oregon has risen during that same time.
On the Web:
Child Care and Education in Oregon and Its Counties: 2010
The complete report can be seen at: