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"Poor cities, expensive day care"

In today's newspaper, I was reading an article called Arme Städte, teure Kitas (Poor cities, expensive day care). Let me (roughly) translate the first few paragraphs for you:

It is extremely unfair for parents: Depending on where they live, they will pay very different amounts for day care spaces and often the prices vary significantly even within a region. In Heilbronn parents don't pay anything, whereas in Tübingen (100km away) a high income family pays up to 3,700 Euros (about CDN$4,921 or US$4,656) per year for two children. While Dusseldorf offers free day care, Duisburg parents pay up to 2,700 Euros (about CDN$3,591 or US$3,397) per year for two children.

The explanation is usually simple:  Many local governments need to save. Duisburg is so far in debt that the county government said it had to withdraw day care subsidies.

The article goes on to discuss the fact that rich cities are able to offer free day care to their citizens, whereas poor cities cannot afford to do so. This further exacerbates the gap between rich and poor and puts increased financial pressure on parents in poor areas. This is, of course, a good point and an important one at that. The article explains that "free day care in difficult times is a luxury."

I imagine that most North American parents reading an article like that would see their blood pressure rising and their heads exploding when comparing the prices of the extremely expensive day care that exists in some German cities with what they have to pay. I come from $7 per day day care land (otherwise known as Quebec), which would work out to around $3,500 per year for two children. In Canada, Quebec's day care program is highly coveted by other provinces where people pay much more for day care, so the thought of Quebec's day care program being considered extremely expensive would probably blow their minds.

On the other side, there are the North American critics of social programs who insist that they do not want to see their tax money being spent to pay for day care for other people's children. This came up as an issue when I wrote about the plans to offer full day junior and senior kindergarten in Ontario. I must admit I don't fully understand why people arbitrarily think it is okay for taxpayers to pay for school starting at the age of five, but object to it before then.

What do you think? Should the government be stepping up and subsidizing day care to ensure that everyone who needs or wants a space can afford it? Or is putting young children into care entirely a family's personal financial responsibility?

Note: The Kitas (day care) that I am talking about in the German context are generally for children aged 3 and above. However, there is also a push to increase the availability of spaces for children younger than that too. About 2/3 of 3 year olds go to Kita and about 90% of children attend Kita in their final "pre-school" (i.e. before Grade 1) year.

Photo credit: Michael Panse MdL on flickr

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Reader Comments (54)

My opinion on this changed when I had a hard time finding quality daycare for my almost 3-year-old. We had been in an excellent infant and toddler centre for 2 years, but she was about to age out of it and we couldn't find a space for her. We were willing to pay, but the room just wasn't available. She ended up in a facility that was good, but not a good personal fit, for 6 months until we found our dream spot. I knew that the quality of care was good at the interim facility, but its philosophy wasn't working for my daughter. I felt bad about that, but at the time I was pregnant and I personally needed to keep working in order to qualify for maternity benefits.

That experience convinced me that we need a much better system than we have here in British Columbia. The wait lists are long. Care is expensive. It is a patchwork solution, and you need to be really on the ball to make it work. I think that this is far less than optimal for our children. They need quality, consistent care, especially in early childhood.

It's lovely to say that parents should stay home to care for their children. I think it's great if families can make it work. The reality for Canadians is that most of us either can't or don't. Both parents work in 80% of two parent families, and so someone is caring for those children, whether it's the school or daycare. We can't just ignore the reality for most parents, because it's our kids that pay the price.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I think it should all be dependent on income levels. In New Zealand, you can qualify for a subsidy towards childcare costs on how much you earn. But even with the subsidy, many parents struggle to afford the weekly fee, even though both parents work.

In my situation, my son's daycare costs NZ$238 a week for 40 hours. I qualify for NZ$148 of subsidies, and have to pay $90 a week. If I was earning $1000 a week, that $90 would be no problem (If you earn up to around $1000 a week, you qualify for a $3.70 an hour subsidy from the government, Earn over that amount, and the amount is abated). However, I am on a student allowance (as I am a student midwife) of $328 a week along with $86 a week in tax rebates (for having a child). With the high cost of living (and now having to content with a rise in GST from 12.5% to 15%, along with changes to tax, which means my rent will be even higher come October 1st), that $90 a week is a lot for me, and most weeks I struggle to pay it.

Daycare centres in NZ also qualify for extra subsidies on top of the what parents pay and the childcare subsidy I pay for. If it wasn't subsidised, daycare would cost a parent around $450 a week, which 99% of parents who send their children wouldn't be able to afford.

So in my unorganised way of saying things, the government in other countries such as the USA should be subsidising childcare costs, but only if you earn a certain amount.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

It's a tough call. In Israel, home day care is very cheap in poorer areas but the quality can be low. Poorer areas do get subsidies, as do parents with low income.
I think that subsidies should go to young parents to use for day care or to supplement lost income of the primary caretaker, as they see fit. If a parent sacrifices an income to care for a baby, while other parents get subsidized daycare, it seems unfair to me. In Israel parents want tax refunds for daycare costs, but this only helps parents who are paying tax i.e. wealthier ones. The focus is on getting more women into the work force to boost the economy, which is understandable but somewhat misguided in my opinion.

Re: getting more women into the workforce - subsidized spaces allow women to go to work and also creates jobs for women (since early childhood educators are primarily women).

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

What about homeschooling versus public school then? Would you apply the same statement to that? Should homeschooling parents get a portion of education taxes for educating their own child?

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

In my dream world, one parent would be given the choice to stay home until the child is READY for school. This parent would be giving a parental leave according to their income from when they were working. If the time comes when the parent goes back to work or that they need/want to early, then they should have the option for QUALITY subsidized daycare.

This is coming from a Home Daycare Provider in Ontario. Here, we pay 150+ per week per child, whether the child is in care or not. That seems a lot compared to the approx. $94.63 per week there. I see parents frustrated trying to find care for their children, yet they can't pay for it. Here because of bylaws, Home Daycare Providers can't be registered to allow for subsidy (very long story). So parents grab the cheapest person who does no receipts to only find out, just like products, they get what they pay for.

Some try out these cheaper 'providers' until the waiting list of substidy says they are the next qualified family. Not to say that the cheaper rate Providers are all child abusers, but they can't run care like a fully paid Provider can. It costs a lot to run quality care, and personal time. I know some do not like Today's Parent but here is a link of rates across Canada. This is a per day rate, however most Providers, like myself charge weekly. http://www.todaysparent.com/lifeasparent/childcare/article.jsp?content=20100302_173310_5996&page=1

It's discussing why people complain about 'paying for other people's children'. Well, the same thing could be said about roads, that some people don't have cars to drive, or health care that some people don't use all the time or even in years. You get the idea. We can't pick and choose to what service we want to pay into. We pay into it for the greater good of the community.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOur Sentiments

What are the hours on the day care? Because that sounds unbelievably cheap (yet still unaffordable!) for full-time care for two kids.

And as long as societies expect parents to be working while their kids are young, we damn well should be subsidizing child care. SOMEONE has to take care of them! And at the moment, it comes at the cost of mostly-women, who either have to stay home and lose status, financial independence, and career momentum, or work to pay for care so they can work. Neither is a choice a sane society would allow.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

Our Sentiments:

The $94.63 per week you're talking about is the high end and is for TWO children!

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

In East Germany it is usually all day care, so parents can drop off on the way to work and pick up on the way home. In the West, it is still often half day, so the assumption is that a parent is at home, works part-time, or has another care provider for the afternoon.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hi. I'm in the US. I hate you all.

We get no subsidies here for child care. There are special savings accounts you can use to get a tax break on schools tuition, but those are only available to families where BOTH parents work. We'll be wanting to put our son in preschool next fall and will most likely be paying somewhere around US$700-$800 per month for part-time care (5 half-day a week). Right now I've found a home-based day-care that he goes to a few mornings a week that costs $8/hr for one child, and that was an incredibly low rate compared to what appears to be the norm.

(Now, I realize we live in California which tends to be more expensive in general, but I have family who live in Texas (much cheaper cost of living) and the cost of childcare doesn't seem to be much lower there.)

So, yeah. This post pretty much made me want to laugh out loud, and cry simultaneously.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Ok, looked up some numbers for the US. Here's what I found (just as a comparison):

Assuming full-time day care for a 2 year old child on weekdays, according to Runzheimer International, the U.S. national average cost for full-time day care is $611 a month.
Large cities such as Boston and New York are most expensive, with average daycare costs of a little more than $1,000 a month. Contacting two KinderCares in the San Jose area about infant day care, we received quotes of $300-$330 a week, plus annual fees.
Cities like San Antonio, TX, and Jackson, MS, have the lowest average prices, around $350-$400 a month.

I wish we had a better system for supporting families, but apparently we can't handle that (SOCIALISM!!!!). It's a shame.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Wow! What an interesting post. As someone who works but doesn't have kids, I don't mind subsidizing day care through taxation. But I also wouldn't be opposed to subsidizing moms or dads who want to say home with their kids. I wish we (government and community) could find a more innovative approach that was flexible to parents/working arrangements but recognizing that people may want, and need, to work. Judging by the readers' comments, it seems like compared to a lot of other countries, we've got it pretty good in Canada, at least in the city I live in.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I live across the river from you and will have paid 30,000 this year in daycare fees. I wish that there was a better option that didn't cost so much, but I live in a pricey part of town and pay in so many ways to be able to live a (mostly) walkable life. It's all about choices but I really believe that the daycare agreements signed with the provinces under our last government were a huge step forward as based as they were on sound principles: . quality care, universally accessible and developmental in programming. I am not much of a partisan; I just think that made so much sense.

The situation in Germany sounds pretty terrible though -- reminds me of what goes in the US in terms of public schools . . poor areas often have shitty schools and more well-off areas are able to collect more taxes making their schools better. There has to be a more equitable way to do this.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I wonder what Germans (even those paying for "expensive" childcare) would say about our pathetic US system... In Southern California, the cheapest (read "crappiest") childcare runs over $600/month. They mostly stick children in front of a TV and feed them processed junk, and parents have to pay for the "privilege" of having their children treated in that manner.

I know people who've worked for Head Start programs in the U.S. (gov't-supported pre-school programs for disadvantaged youth), and their accounts of negligence and abuse would chill the blood of anybody who loves children and understands their developmental needs. Nowhere is the difference between haves and have-nots clearer than in the U.S.

Germans and Canadians, thank your lucky stars...

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermontessorimatters

Yes, I think it should be subsidized. Then we could have standards more easily applied.

One of the main problems, however, is this: daycare is a huge problem for a few people for a few years. Then their kids become school age, and it is never a problem again. As a result, it is hard to get a critical mass of people (i.e. voters) to rally around this issue.


May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIronic Mom

Given that they say that the most formative years for children are the first 5, I find it odd that people think using taxpayers dollars to pay for quality day care is not supported. I do think that the government (in my case, the Canadian government) should at the very least subsidized day care. What would be even better? If they government had a program that allowed parents to choose to either say home with their kids until they were school aged or to put their kids in quality care and both options were supported financially.

Where I live in Alberta, it costs us $900 CND a month to put our daughter in a day home full time. The day care we looked at was $1350/month. We do get some tax breaks and a $100/month cheque which is taxed at the end of the year (meaning we have to give most of that back), but it is not like we are getting huge subsidies to put our kid in care.

We all deserve to make the best choice for our kids and be able to make it financially. Our family is very lucky and I know it. There are many people who are having to make choices about their children's care (either to work and put their kids in substandard care, or to stay home and not work because they can't afford quality care) that are based on financial reasons rather then what is best for their kids.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

"It should be subsidized"--

but where should that revenue come from? Raising taxes, which is just another drain on paychecks that are already too thin to cover the cost of daycare? This is only going to give people even less say about where and how their own money gets spent.

It's the same thing with healthcare--who should absorb these staggeringly inflated costs? The patients who get sick? The doctors and midwives, who have their own bills to pay? So many people are saying the government--which is really just a way of saying "both," since the government doesn't generate any revenue itself.

The problem is much deeper than all of this--it's that our society is so divorced from a community-based lifestyle that instead of having a scenario in which older generations are nearby to help care for the younger, while also being near their children when old age means that they need help themselves--rather than the same parents who are worrying about daycare then having to worry in a few years about the cost of putting Mom & Dad in a nursing home.

However, no matter which way you look at it, there's not enough money in the world to fix it.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Like Marcy, I'm in the US and I hate you all! I'm kidding... kind of. I have an 18 month-old who has been in day care since he was 8 weeks old, because, well, after that, anytime away from work is unpaid. I work in a professional job (former faculty member, but now working out of academe), so unlike some people I know who find it cheaper to stop working all together, my family income would take too much of a hit if I started working, even with substantial child care costs. And they are substantial. Over the first 12 months of his life, we paid over $15,500 for full time care. Now that he's 18 months, we can switch him to a new place, and we'll cut our bill for the year by half, since infant care is the most expensive. In total, between birth and the time he starts regular school, we'll pay over $46,000 for child care. We live in a rural area, and quality childcare options are few and far between. Luckily, my employer provides a child care subsidy, but it's capped at $5000 per year, and the subsidy amount is tied to income.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMG

There's a list here with the average price per state for childcare. Here in OK, it's between $4000 and $6500 per child/per year. (http://www.doodledays.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=61&Itemid=112). The sad thing is, as someone who used to do in-home childcare, it's a lose-lose. The parents have to hand over a significant chunk of their pay, but the providers end up with less than minimum wage after expenses/taxes/etc... As important as children, and the task of caring for them, is, that the cost of this job is brushed aside and deemed not worthy by the government is ridiculous.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

Australian mother here. $270 AUD a week for one child full time. That's a non-profit parent run centre, others are more. Child care government benefits apply, but based on a completely unrealistic assessment at the cost of day care and the assistance drops dramatically as income level rises. I work part time and bring home just less than it costs to send me daughter to preschool. It's our biggest expense after our mortgage. Needless to say it's for her benefit mainly, she adores it and is tearing into the academic content with gusto (Montessori system).

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeryl

Ditto on the USA thing. I stay at home with my kiddies but so many could use the help with day care and I live in a state that is very cheap for it. (Im in Utah. Lots of SAHM run excellent day cares out of their homes to supplement income here)

But considering that we battled our guts out to get some kind of health care reform, I just do not see this as an option for my country any time soon. Hoping you all fare better.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLoralee

We live in Sydney, Australia and are in much the same position as Meryl with regards to costs/subsidies. However, some of my friends living in the same city would have to pay around $550 per child per week for child care, dependent on area. We're paying around $60 per day for daycare in our area- and yet our center is in danger of closing as its profit margin just isn't wide enough. Subsidies are necessary since *quality* child care is not profitable at an affordable rate for most parents. At our center, around 50% of operating income is outgoing in wages before taxes, expenses etc. The center operates on the minimum staff/child ratio required by law. Quality care is dependent on quality staff (and they are very difficult to find and retain in this city at the rates they are being paid). Packing kids in like battery hens isn't really an option ;)

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

Part-time working mum in the UK here, with one solitary 2 year old :) Currently I pay £3.75 per hour for my daughter to go to a childminder, three days per week - that works out at about £105 per week. The other days she is at home with me, while hubby works 5 days per week.

Childcare for under 3s here is partially subsidised either by Child Tax Credits or Childcare Vouchers. One is accessed via HMRC (Inland Revenue), the other via your employer - both essentially mean that whatever income tax you would have paid on the money that goes to a childcarer is reimbursed. This only works up to a certain amount, though both parents can claim if they're working.

From the first term after their 3rd birthday until they start school (at 4 or 5), each child can attend a childcare setting for 15 hours per week for free. In practice this usually means 3 "sessions" (a morning or an afternoon). Anything else the parents have to pay for, and can recoup some costs via the vouchers or tax credits. The termly timing of this is a bit mad though, as a child born on 2nd April will have to wait until 1st September to be eligible.. but a child born on 31st August will be eligible almost immediately (for example).

There is a trial going on at the moment to see whether 2 year old children from low income families with other risk factors (e.g. poor parental mental health, parent long-term unemployed, social/temporary housing, chronic ill health, domestic violence, etc) benefit from 10 hours per week in a good or outstanding childcare setting (as rated by Oftsed, the education inspection dept). The previous government was quite keen on abolishing Childcare Vouchers or Child Tax Credits in order to pay for this as a nationwide initiative, depending on the results.. but the pilot hasn't ended yet and we now have a Con-Lib coalition in power. I don't know what the overall results will show, but I know some of the cases in my local area - guess where I work those 3 days?! - and for all that I love the idea that kids should be raised by their parents first and "professionals" second, many are seriously benefitting... It also comes with a program to help the parent(s) get out of whatever limbo/hell they're in, which also seems to be working in many cases. Socialism - definitely, but if it helps a few families out of the circle of poverty (and all that comes with it), I'm halfway to volunteering to give up my Tax Credits!

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

I think saying that the money is for the parents makes that unfair, but I do think home-educated children should have access to resources which are normally state-funded, such as swimming lessons, temporary loan of musical instruments, use of microscopes, school-rate access to educational facilities such as museums, that sort of thing. Being me, I wouldn't have a problem with that being in voucher form rather than cash form, but it would seem fair to me for it to be available.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

I think we need to think about where we put our tax dollars. Yes, there's a finite amount, but where are our priorities? The future of our nation (ie, children) or the Olympics (i live in Vancouver), or more tax breaks for businesses who receive "corporate welfare" at levels that would blow your mind? And even if your want to take a purely economic, cost/benefit analysis approach, it makes way more economic sense to invest in our children in their first five years than to pay the price later on in the form of youth crime, mental health services, educational intervention. Quality and affordable daycare is essential and should be accessible to everyone. I'd make subsidies somewhat means tested, so the wealthy do pay more than the most needy (who, in my view, should pay nothing given the many studies who show that quality daycare provides enormous benefits to low income children and will thus cost us all less later down the track).

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

Difficult question and there will be a bias toward answers from those who are raising families (apart from the one commenter above).
I've just checked fees for one of our local providers here (Lower Mainland, BC) - it's about 725CAD per month for fulltime childcare in a registered multi-child facility. Family daycares ie. in home are a bit cheaper and quality can be good. For before/after school care (which is where I'm at right now) fulltime is around 335CAD.
IMO warning: While I think that raising a family should be valued more by society in terms of financial, childcare,working hours and employment prospects, etc. support I'm not sure if I would agree with childcare subsidies for higher income families where both parents want to work. Lower income, where two incomes do make a difference - yes. I have stayed at home while my child was pre-school simply because that is what I believed was right and I'm not sure if I could truly support other families who want to (note: want to, not need to) send both parents out to work at such a sensitive time (unpopular, yes I know - but if you want a child don't contract out its care fulltime in the early years if you don't have to). Future employment will be built around my child's needs (no, I'm not sure how I'll manage that one either!) but until that is sorted I guess I'm 'lucky' enough to be a SAHM wallowing in luxury without needing to work (guess I'm also lucky enough not to have a decent pension, independent finances, an uninterrupted career or employment prospects too - there are sacrifices at every stage in raising a family).

PS: I'm finding it incredibly frustrating being SAHM now that the Wee Guy's in full time school - after school care is hard to find and working hours do not fit around school hours. Although I do want to be able to add to the family finances, taking the strain off my husband and having the back up to step in if his job becomes unstable, not to mention to use all the education I've been thru, to use my mind on more than just loo-cleaning and playdate organising, I'm still not prepared for my son to be a latch-key kid either. This kind of dilemma should have disappeared a long time ago, for both parents.

Just wondering what you think about my situation. I'm probably considered high income (though maybe not for a two income family in Vancouver, BC!) at around $125,000. But I'm a single parent with no second parent paying child support or at all involved in my 8 month old daughter's life. I saved enough to take 12 months mat leave but will be returning to work in August. I didn't get into a single group daycare despite putting my daughter's name down 3 days into my pregnancy. The centres would have cost me about $1100 a month. I have looked at over 30 family day cares in my area and they have all been pretty appalling - lots of TV, junk and mediocre physical environments. So I've hired a nanny which will cost me $1750 a month. After mortgage and strat fees, that leaves me with about $1000 to live off per month (food, utilities, entertainment etc). Needless to say, it will be very tight. I don't qualify for any child care subsidies other than the government tax credit.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona


I think that Ottawa, on the whole, is quite expensive for child care. Gatineau, on the other hand, benefits from the $7/day daycare program (although getting a space can be an issue if you didn't sign up the day you found out you were pregnant).

I'm glad to see that you support your tax dollars subsidizing child care/parenting. I think that a lot of the objections I got to free full day junior and senior kindergarten on my previous post was actually from stay-at-home parents, rather than from non-parents. On the same token, I often hear parents who send their children to private school complaining about paying school taxes.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I hope you are right about those childcare agreements. I'm not all that trusting...

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


That is really sad when programs that are designed to give kids a "Head Start" do the exact opposite. How awful.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Ironic Mom:

I think getting voters to rally around it requires more of a socialist mindset among the public. When people can see beyond what is good for themselves and think about what is good for society at large, then real change can occur.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


That is similar to what we pay for a private full-day preschool. It is our choice, however, to send our kids there. We could get less expensive day care if we wanted to.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Our Sentiments:

You are completely right about all of the other things we pay for that many people do not use.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Gawd, the I'mAlrightJack crowd. I hate that argument.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

Where should that revenue come from? We can re-evaluate where all our tax money goes now. I hear so much complaining about the cost of health care reform in the US, but who talks about how much we've spent on war the past 8 years? The vast majority of US govt funds go to the military, medicare, and social security. We could spend some time looking at these costs and figure out how to make them less of a drain (ex- once you start making more than $100,000 per year you stop pay any social security on the money you make above that. Remove this cut-off, and it'd help alleviate a huge amount of the strain the SS funds have been feeling). As for health care, knowing what I have found out about maternity and prenatal care in the US, it is clear that there is all sorts of unnecessary spending built-in to our system that could be trimmed back without hurting people's quality of health care (or heck, even improving it).

We could re-structure the way we give tax breaks and benefits. Here in California they're firing teachers and cutting funding to schools, yet offering standards refunds on home purchases to families (which inflates home prices). Which makes more sense to invest in?

There's also the argument, which I believe has some research to back it up, that if we invest in education (especially early education) we'll reduce the need for (and cost of) jails and prisons in the future.

There are no easy answers, I'm not trying to say anything different. But I think there are many areas of govt spending that could and should be looked at and re-evaluated, to see how the money could possibly be better spent.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

this is a topic that holds great interest for me, although my kids are well past it all now (they are aged 14-18). Let me say that I was in Maryland, and I have been a single mom since my youngest were less than a year old. I had to choose between staying with them and being terribly poor, and taking a job and being fairly poor. The only daycare we could get turned out to be home providers subsidized through welfare. I tried it for a while, and it was a nightmare: the woman, a young grandma, had converted her one-car garage into a daycare space. A bunch of kids spent the day there with a big t.v. on. They ate noodle-os or pbj and drank bug juice. There were three potties sitting there that were only occasionally emptied. If the kids had runny noses, the gunk just ran down their faces. I only know how bad it was because I made unannounced visits at off-hours.

Your baby or toddler cannot tell you about the care he or she is getting. Not to contribute to anyone's unhappy feelings, but think about it. I was taking classes part-time, trying to train as a midwife so that I could actually support my children. Child support is approximately 1/3 the amount of the social security your kids would receive if their father died, by the way, and that is *if* their father is one of the 1/4 of divorced dads who pay the full court-ordered amount.

In the end, I stayed at home and raised (and educated) my own damn kids. They are doing great now, thank goodness and against all odds. Truly good day care should without doubt be available to all, on a sliding scale starting with free. This would benefit all of society. Take the money out of defense spending, and let the Pentagon hold bake sales. But do seriously consider staying at home, at least while your kids are small. It is financially possible and worthwhile: check out Mothers At Home and Moms And More for helpful info. In parenting there are no takeovers.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterysadora

The most affordable day care I could take my 2 year old son to costs US$7 an hour. Even if I could afford that, 15 hours a week would be almost half of my weekly salary and it closes before I actually get out of work. There's a preschool opening in my town - a two minute walk from my house - but the minimum price for 2 half-days a week, about 9 hours, is US$184 per week. Which would leave me $40 a week for everything else. There are no child care subsidies in my state that I'm aware of, and I live in a very progressive state where children are concerned.

So our solution is this: because we only have one car, we live in a rural area, my husband is a foreign national (albeit with a green card) whose career is as a computer programmer in the oil industry (completely useless where we live), because of all of that, he stays home with our wee one while I work part-time. We do this because it's important to me that I spend lots of time with my son while he's little. Once he starts school then I can do full-time employment, but until then, we're barely scraping by.

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOrodemniades

Oh, I'd like to add that I know people who are paying US$4000 a month for full time day care. And that's not even with a nanny. Obviously they live in a city, but still - that's insane!

May 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOrodemniades

That daycare you mentioned sounds horrible! I'm saddened that something like that is allowed to exist..

Here I work in the same office as the ladies who regularly inspect childcare settings in our area - one for childminders (home-based providers) and one for nurseries and preschools. On top of those we have Ofsted, a government inspectorate that only visits once every 3 years. Between them they keep most of the dodgy providers in check, but not all (particularly those who "forget" to register).

Thankfully DD's childminders (a husband and wife team) are consistently rated as "outstanding", and they really are :) On the flipside, we bought our house from a childminder who never bothered to network or go to free training - not a bad house overall, but steps to the garden were uneven (one was 2 foot high, followed by a 6-incher!) with wobbly paving stones, the patio balcony was rotten enough that a kid could have showed through and fallen a good 3 feet into the then-overgrown flowerbed, and her husband's DIY wiring flagged a few reds when we got it surveyed. Nice.

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

"I must admit I don’t fully understand why people arbitrarily think it is okay for taxpayers to pay for school starting at the age of five, but object to it before then."

Why? Because we're talking about DAY CARE, not SCHOOL. In a nutshell, people should stop looking for free ways to foist their children off on other people at earlier and earlier ages. If you need two incomes in order to have children, you need to be prepared to pay for daycare. I'm not sure what the mystery there is. Further, I don't believe that children need academic schooling before age 5 (in fact, I'm not that big a fan of increasingly academic kindergarten anyway).

For us, it was important to raise our own children, so we saved and waited until I was sure that I could stay home before trying to conceive. I realize that there are "accidents", etc. and that some moms really need to work for reasons other than income, but quite a few of my friends seemed to not have thought about how they were going to reconcile their personal standard of living with having a child. If you want to work, great! But why should I pay for your poor planning? (Again, there are accidents, there are cycles of poverty, I get that. I just don't appreciate it when educated people get knocked up, and then choose to have me pay for their daycare/formula/food/healthcare instead of living in a smaller house or driving a less expensive car .)

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I'm sure there are abuses and I haven't done a study of Head Start programs. Recently, though, as a volunteer project, I planned and ran a field trip for three Head Start locations (the Junior League funded the trip and a craft).

They had a kitchen at the location I went to and lunch was quesdillas with rice and corn and beans. The children drank milk or water.

The teachers were compassionate and engaged.

The children were delightful and you could tell that this was a safe and happy place for them.

The space was better organized than my kids' and well-stocked with lovely and developmentally-appropriate toys.

I'm not saying that there are not bad locations, just wanted to counterbalance that anecdote with my own.


The reason I mentioned that is that the age for so-called "school" is so arbitrary. You are making a distinction between day care and school based on your own societal and cultural assumptions about when schooling starts and ends.

However, even "school" as we may know it consists to a great extent of day care. Families that homeschool are usually able to get through the curriculum in a much shorter number of hours than the time kids spend in school. That is because much of school is (supervised) free play, (supervised) lunch time, (supervised) recess, supervised and orchestrated "keep busy" activities, and so on. School is not all about education.

If it was/is okay for taxpayers to pay for education and not for "daycare" then I think that taxpayers should be spending more on preschool education (which is being shown to be increasingly important, but like primary and secondary education does not HAVE to take place in a structured school environment) and on higher education (because it is post-secondary education that allows countries to advance economically through increased innovation).

I can appreciate (but do not agree with) your argument that you do not want to pay for things for educated people who should be able to pay for them themselves. But I completely fail to understand why you think it is okay to arbitrarily pay for education/daycare from the age of 5 to 16 (give or take a year), but not before or after that age. It seems a bit ridiculous.

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is interesting because Berlin is considered a poor bankrupt city where they left the snow and ice on the sidewalks all winter and it was completely dangerous to walk and yet they are moving to make daycare free. Currently you pay based on income and since we are in the lowest bracket we were paying 46 euro per month for a full day spot and as of January 1st they cut that rate in half and now we pay 23 euro per month and my understanding is after next year there will be no fee. We had a large choice of places and tried out a few and eventually found a new Waldorf oriented kindergarten within a few blocks of our house where my daughter gets a hot organic lunch every day. She loves it but doesn't always want to stay the full day so she usually comes home after lunch which I actually think is better because a full day is a long time to be away when you're so young. I've noticed there is actually a bit of a stigma here if you don't send your child to daycare because somehow it is seen that you are not properly socializing your child. We even got a bit of a scolding from a doctor at her 3rd year check up because she wasn't going to Kita yet and told us children that didn't go to Kita suffer when they finally go to school. In my case I am happy for her to learn German which she has picked up incredibly quickly but I still feel conflicted about sending her off every day. I understand the socialization aspect and I think the european approach to daycare focuses more on play and social interaction rather than specifically trying to "teach" them anything or plop them in front of a t.v. but part of me still feels that young children need to spend as much time as possible with their parents. I think part of the rationale in Berlin for making daycare free is to encourage better integration because there are so many immigrants here and they want them to learn German and German culture as early as possible so they are trying to ensure that there are no financial barriers in the way.

We spent part of last year in Amsterdam and in contrast to Germany the daycare situation is quite expensive but most people use it starting at around 6 months of age because the maternity leave is so short. However official school starts at 4 years of age which seems quite young to me and I believe it's compulsory, though I'm not positive.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfrauflan

Yes--I'm commenting on the system in the United States. "Formal" schooling begins at kindergarten. I did not comment on higher education, so I don't appreciate your making an assumption about my opinion on that. Or using the word ridiculous--this is a many layered issue, and that kind of rhetoric does not open discussions, but closes them.

Daycare here is....daycare. It's what I would rather early school would be. Lots of play. Lots of time outside. All things that you don't need a professional degree to do with your children. Unfortunately, here in the US we are trying to start academic work earlier and earlier--that's why the US version of kindergarten was invented. As people needed/wanted more "stuff", they needed to work more and more. Instead of expecting them to pay for care outside what was then the current system, a whole new grade was created. Now we expect children to meet standards that are not developmentally appropriate much earlier than before--and when they sink instead of swim, we label them as "special". Not cool.

Now, some states (Maine is one of them) are talking about universal preschool (free public preschool). In my opinion, we're going at this in the wrong direction. Yes, putting children in universal preschool may help them. The idea isn't to be kind, though. The idea is that based on current conditions, parents simply cannot take care of or teach their own young children--that it must be something left to professionals because parents don't care and will let their children fall "behind". BUT, I think we'd find that a whole lot of parents would rather stay home with their children instead, if given the opportunity, the tools, the resources, etc. Naturally, many parents would still choose to have two incomes (or if single, don't have much of a choice). But those like me who believe that most young children belong with a parent, and that most parents are perfectly suited to raise their own children, have to do a hell of a lot of planning in order to do something so simple! It's really frustrating. I very much appreciate that I have the opportunity to school my own children if I want to--to not waste their time with factory style days designed to bring everyone up to average.

Then again, if the universal preschool is going to be like what Frauflan describes below (Waldorf-oriented with organic food!!!!), I wouldn't have as much to complain about. But our public schools already suck, in my opinion, so I can't imagine a preschool/daycare would be much of an improvement!

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I don't think that drawing a distinction between the age at which a normally-developing child is ready for more formal academic instruction is all that arbitrary. The preference for formal education might be cultural, but developmental readiness for academic skills seems to be fairly universal, given some wiggle room for outliers on either end. The fact that part of the school day in the Western World involves non-academic activities does not make school partially daycare. It means that there is a (fading) recognition of the importance of those activities in a child's, possibly even in an adult's, day and that these should be integrated into the rhythm of the day and not segregated to a separate time. And, of course, the proportion of the day that is academic gradually increases as the child gets older. We could, theoretically, increase the length of the school day as the child gets older (and in my district kindergarten is half day). However, even buying your assumption that part of the school day is "day care" does not mean that there isn't an age at which it is logical to start "schooling".


Sorry, the word "ridiculous" may have been a bit much. I get my back up quickly when I read things like "Why? Because we’re talking about DAY CARE, not SCHOOL. In a nutshell, people should stop looking for free ways to foist their children off on other people at earlier and earlier ages.".

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


Some people may argue that there is no need to introduce formal academic instruction at any point and that children (and adults for that matter), should learn what they are interested in learning when they are interested in learning it. Even in academic instruction, I have seen a lot of teachers struggle with teaching things like reading in Kindergarten/Grade 1 because some children are easily able to read fluently whereas others are still struggling with pronouncing the sound that two letters make when put together. There are huge assumptions about what children should learn at what age that I don't think are as universal as the curriculum may assume - both for reasons of interest and readiness.

With regards to the non-academic portion of a child's day, I agree with how important it is. I wasn't trying to minimize that with my comments. However, there is no reason, other than the convenience of having the children cared for, for those activities to take place in a "school". So as beneficial as it is, it is publicly funded day care.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I acknowledged in my comment that "The preference for formal education might be cultural" but I stand by the assertion that readiness for certain skills is neither arbitrary nor cultural. Of course there are outliers and the window may be wider for certain skills and we may be currently rushing things in Western schooling today...but just like there is a developmental window during which *most* children sit up, walk, and talk, there are time frames during which an average child will be able to hold a pen, read, write, add, etc.

Most children are not ready for these things at age two and I'm willing to bet that's cross-cultural. Sure, kids are always learning. And not everyone believes in formal education. But I think we can agree that babies are not ready for formal schooling.

Of course there is not a hard line at which daycare ends and schooling begins but in the beginning we are definitely not giving formal academic instruction. And eventually most of the day becomes either formal academic or other activities that are or should be an integral part of this. Somewhere along the line it becomes less like daycare and more like school. We can argue whether that should be at 4 or 5 or 6 or 7....but I don't think it is arbitrary or cultural that there is an age by which most developmentally "normal" kids are able to follow instructions, read, write, etc.

As to the non-academic portion, it is not just a tacked on convenience for it to occur at school. That implies that you complete all formal instruction in x number of hours and then have the other activities following that. Formal learning is best processed when there are blocks of instruction (the optimal length of which depends on the age and the individual) and scheduled breaks. You can't logistically have 40 minutes of school, send a kid home for snack, 50 minutes of schooling, send them home for athletics, 40 minutes of schooling, send them home for lunch, etc.

Not to mention that better schooling would integrate physical, creative, open-ended, and academic work together.

Your assertion views these as discrete parts of the day...which is not an assumption I think you would generally make.

I don't view them as discrete parts of the day. I think a balanced day integrates academic and non-academic aspects. However, I do stand by the assertion that taxpayers are not just paying for the "schooling" of a six year old. They are also paying for the "day care" of that six year old. From that perspective, I don't see why people think it is okay for taxpayers to fund 100% of a six year old's day in school, but don't think that any subsidy should be provided for a four year old's care.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Because they believe in the importance of schooling and since the modern, Western school has evolved into more than simply formal, academic instruction, they (sometimes grudgingly) agree that they will contribute tax dollars to fund it all. Because, at least in the US, historically we have funded public schooling. Because even if part of what happens in first grade isn't school in the strictest sense, none of what happens in a two year old daycare is. Because even if they would like to do so, it would be logistically impossible to calculate the exact percentage that is schooling (and therefore publicly fund-able according to their opinion) and that which is not (and therefore not)...though certainly there are plenty of people (not me) who would like to slash school budgets and have less of the non-academic programming. Because these two strains of education are too closely intertwined there would be no way to opt-in to only part of it and not all of it...a person can't send a kid to the publicly funded portion of the day (under this theoretical division) and have them come home every other hour during the non-academic portions.

You seem to assume people who object to paying for daycare think it is "okay" to fund the portions of schooling that are not strictly academic...it may be more of a "grudging acceptance" of the practical impossibility of separating them.

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