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Only 10 Percent of Rhode Islanders Can Afford Childcare for Even One Child

It’s no surprise that Kids’ Count has found that only about 10 percent of Rhode Island families can afford to pay childcare for even one child, presenting a significant obstacle to entering the workforce.

“Families rely on childcare to enable them to work and to provide the early education experiences needed to prepare their children for school,” according to Kids’ Count.

In its annual review of conditions for children and their families, Kids’ Count characterized the childcare system as “unworkable for most families.”

According to Kids’ Count, federal guidelines suggest that no more than 7 percent of a family’s income should be spent on childcare. That means, Kids’ Count says, that a “Rhode Island family would need to earn at least $167,000 to afford the average annual cost for one preschooler at a licensed center.”

Kids’ Count says the cost for sending one infant to a certified childcare center is $13.780; for a preschooler, $11,700; and a six to 12-year-old, $8,684.

The report also discussed state subsidies (through the Department of Human Services Child Care Assistance Program – CCAP), the inadequacies of federal subsidies, and poor wages for childcare teachers, making it difficult to retain teachers.

“Nationally, funding for state childcare subsidy programs is so low that less than 20 percent of federally income-eligible children and families actually receive assistance,” Kids’ Count says. “A 2021 report from the U.S. Treasury identifies several market failures that make the current childcare system ‘unworkable’ for most families.”

Here are some of Kids’ Counts key finding:

  • Most childcare educators are women, with a disproportionate number of women of color, earning “very low wages.” In Rhode Island, the median hourly wage was $13.26 for childcare educators and $14.08 for pre-school educators, about the same or lower than fast-food workers.
  • Fifteen states fund wage supplements “designed to improve qualifications and retention of child care teaches,” Kids Count says.
  • In December 2022, Rhode Island subsides were at historic lows, down 43 percent from 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 58 percent from 2003. There were 6,072 childcare subsidies in Rhode Island.
  • Of those subsides, 150 were in Newport, 54 in Middletown, and five in Portsmouth. The most were in Providence, 2,109, followed by Pawtucket, 632.
  • In December 2022, some 52 percent of subsidies were used by families with incomes at or below the poverty level. Three out of four childcare subsidies were used by low-income working families not receiving cash assistance, and 9 percent were used for children on welfare.

Source: WUN