Child care costs rival housing

If families can find a home big and affordable enough, they still may be facing an expense that can rival rent or, in many cases, exceed it: Someone to watch their kids during the workday or after school.

Child care costs have risen 76% in Colorado since the start of the millennium, according to Claire Levy, executive director of the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.

It costs Cherlyn Seruto $975 a month to send her 3-year-old daughter to the “cheapest day care in Boulder,” she said, and another $1,650 for her son to attend a preschool where he can expend a bit more energy. The $2,625 per month total is steep, but it’s worth it so that she and her husband can both keep their full-time jobs.

Colorado’s newly passed law that funds full-day kindergarten should help out when her son starts school next year. But even three hours of after care at the YMCA, Seruto’s current plan, will run $600 a month. And she’s not sure if her rambunctious son will do well in a classroom all day and then an after-school program; she is considering cutting back her hours to give him some flexibility.

Whatever she does, it will only get cheaper from here on out. When both kids were at their youngest and in need of day care, Seruto was shelling out $2,900 a month.

There are cheaper alternatives that some families choose or are forced into, beyond staying at home with the kids. Seruto knows families who employ live-in au pairs they pay $600-$900 a month. “But that only works if you have a house with extra room,” she said.

Family, friends and neighbors remain the go-to for parents of more modest means, said Julie Van Domelen, executive director of Emergency Family Assistance Association. But beyond relying on loved ones, resources remain scarce.

“You talk to all our case managers,” said Van Domelen, “the one thing (their clients) can’t find a solution for is child care.”

by Shay Castle