Melissa Colagrosso and her husband have struggled to make a profit during the nearly three decades they’ve owned A Place To Grow Children's Center in West Virginia.
“We borrowed a lot of money. We found resources over the years to kind of dig ourselves out of holes, and then just keep making payments,” Colagrosso said.
She said the math doesn’t add up for her and the math doesn’t add up for families.
There’s a paradox that lies at the heart of the child care industry: parents dole out high fees, while child care centers make very little and workers don’t get paid much.
The annual cost of child care in 2022 stood at $10,853, according to Child Care Aware of America. Meanwhile, the median pay for child care workers in 2022
was just $13.71 per hour or $28,520 a year, according to Labor Department data.
This paradox raises the question: Where is that money going?
“The main reason that child care is so expensive has to do with just how many people you need in a classroom to make sure that little, little children are healthy, safe and learning every day,” said Susan Gale Perry, the CEO of Child Care Aware of America.
There are ratios that classrooms have to follow, which can vary from state to state and program to program. Federal guidelines show that adults at child care centers shouldn’t care for more than a few toddlers or infants at a time,
with these restrictions becoming more lax the older the children.
Because of these limits, that means more staffing, which means higher payroll costs. Colagrosso said you also have to pay for supplies, insurance, utilities, equipment and advertising, among other expenses.
Colagrosso is blunt in her assessment about the state of child care: “It’s a failing business model,” she said.
Billions in federal child care funding allocated during the pandemic did end up helping providers like Colagrosso turn a profit, but most of that money
has now expired.
To help us understand why the math doesn’t add up, Colagrosso broke down how much money child care businesses can pull in and what expenses they have to handle.