A quarter of families in and around Park Slope are paying more than $19,000 a year for day care — more than twice the average in a state that is second in the nation in such costs, according to a new study.
The Child Care Working Group, an ad hoc organization of parents, surveyed 377 families in Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn Heights and Ditmas Park, and found not only high costs, but a mad scramble for day care that has led to long waiting lists, pre-natal school scouting, and 4:30 am camp-outs for first-come, first-served openings.
“We had a sense anecdotally from friends and neighbors that people were really feeling a strain over child care in our area,” said Barbara Kancelbaum, who helped write the report. “The problems are cost, difficulty of finding an appropriate situation, and the fear of not being able to get into a center.”
About half of the parents surveyed had children in day care or pre-school, while the other half cared for their children at home, either with a stay-at-home parent or with nanny. Only 67 families — less than 18 percent of the entire surveyed group — included a stay-at-home parent.
As a result of intense demand for day-care slots, outside-the-home coverage is increasingly expensive.
Kancelbaum also blamed rents and regulations.
“It’s practically impossible for child-care centers to find space in churches and synagogues and community centers that can be retrofitted to meet the health and fire codes,” she said. “It would cost much more money than they can afford.
“And rents are so high that child-care centers are forced to charge a lot,” she added. “It’s not their fault.”
Parents might be sympathetic to day-care centers with tight budgets, but they’re still not happy. More than a third of parents in the survey said that the cost of child care was a “severe strain” financially.
They have good reason to grumble. Most of the surveyed parents with kids in day care are paying more than the state average for pre-school–age care, which is $9,391 per year — the second highest average in the country.
“With two incomes, we are not any further ahead financially than we were with one income and a stay-at-home parent,” said one respondent.
Some parents are even paying for day care that they’re not getting. More than 10 percent of families reported forfeiting the deposits they paid to hold spots at preschools that their children didn’t end up attending.
Brad Lander, who is running to succeed Bill DeBlasio and represent many of these parents in the City Council, this week proposed the creation of “Child Care Opportunity Zones” that would make it easier for pre-schools and day-care centers to open.
In the meantime, parents continue to cope with costs — and even unexpected problems.
“Our daughter was offered a spot at a pre-school,” said one parent, “but it was subsequently withdrawn when [the school] remembered that she has potentially life-threatening peanut allergy.”