Young parents struggle with affording childcare

FAMU Child Development Center is one of the choices that parents have in Tallahassee. Photo by Asia Collins

 

By Asia Collins
Outlook writer
When Nicole Brooks arrived at FAMU to earn a business degree, she figured by now she would be well on her way to owning her own business.

 

Brooks’ life changed when she ended up pregnant. That put her in a category with thousands of single parents who have to face the struggle of finding affordable childcare.

 
She left school her sophomore year and returned to her hometown West Palm Beach to gather herself. Brooks is now raising her 3-year-old son in Tallahassee. “I didn’t expect  to be struggling with payments at such a young age,” she said Many, like Brooks, turn to state assistance like the Voluntary Prekindergarten program. Through the pro-gram participants choose a provider before the state determines the payment rate for VPK.

 

As of April, there were more than 5,000 children enrolled in a VPK program. According to Money magazine, families spend more than 10 percent of their income on childcare.
Brooks, 23, is doing well enough to go without the VPK program. However, she still feels the pinch when it comes to staying on her budget.

 

“Before my son turned two, I was paying much more money for daycare than I would’ve liked,” said Brooks. “It was hard, but I desperately needed the help while I went to work.”

 
The cost of childcare varies across the state. Lower rates, however, don’t appeal to some parents who put more emphasis on the provider’s curriculum.

 
Rates often range from $700 to $1,000 per month. Most pre-schools or day-care centers set their rates based on a child’s age and often the cost for a young child tends to be more expensive.

 
High child-care cost is especially burdensome for mothers who weren’t planning to become pregnant.

“I was never financially stable; so adding a child onto my financial crisis was not ideal,” Emily Peters, who became a parent soon-er than she wanted. “You’d think after you’ve bought everything for them to live a healthy life, sending them off to daycare would be a breeze. That is if you could drop them off after paying $846 a month for it.”
For parents like Peters, the VPK program is a life jacket.

 
“I know that if I didn’t have help with paying for my daughter’s daycare, I would be forced to find a work from home job and have to be a stay at home mom,” said Tonya Green. “Being a single parent causes many sacrifices.”