DC-area parents brace for higher child care costs

The Washington, D.C., area ranks No. 1 in the nation for day care costs, according to Care.com. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Nadezhda1906)

The cost of child care is already a substantial household expense for parents, and the cost will likely be higher because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Care.com survey of 2,000 parents who have children in child care conducted between May 20 and May 22 found 52% of parents expect their costs to go up post-pandemic. And the reason is simple math.

“Fewer day cares are going to be able to reopen. And those that do, will have fewer slots available due to restrictions on attendance and numbers of children in any given classroom. So, in order to profitably operate, tuition is going to rise at those places,” Care.com’s Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Cronkey told WTOP.

Not only will profitability be squeezed by fewer enrollments, but child care facilities are facing new costs for personal protection equipment, new cleaning protocols and staff.

The D.C. area already has some of the highest child care costs in the nation.

“It actually ranks No. 1 for day care costs, and it ranks No. 8 for in-home or nanny care costs,” Cronkey said.

The average cost for just one child in day care in Washington, D.C., is $373 per week, according to Care.com data. The average cost of a nanny for one child in D.C. is $704 per week.

Costs for some families may become so high that traditionally pricier options become more attractive, such as in-home care and nannies, once the luxury of well-heeled families, especially if they can be part of what is now known as “Nanny Shares.”

“Perhaps you find another family in your neighborhood or in your area with whom you can split the child care costs. We know that a nanny is more expensive than a center, but if you have multiple children, that can reduce the cost of the nanny and make it more affordable,” Cronkey said.

In fact, it may drive a boon in jobs for child care professionals. Care.com said it has seen a triple-digit increase in demand for nanny and in-home babysitter jobs.

With 63% of parents concerned about their child’s safety returning to child care facilities, in-home care also allows parents to set the rules on things such as contact, social distancing and hygiene.

Care.com has an online resource that helps parents navigate various child care costs and compare their options.

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