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Where in Washington is child care the least affordable? Whatcom parents probably know

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Child care in Whatcom County is among the least affordable in the state, according to a new report from Child Care Aware of Washington.

The advocacy group examined how much of a family’s median income was spent on child care to arrive at its annual ranking. It also looked at the impact of child care affordability on families and the workplace.

Released last week, its 2018 Child Care Data Report also tracked the supply of child care, the demand and the cost for the previous year.

Here’s what the report’s data shows for Whatcom County:

A family with a median income of $57,291 will spend 36.8 percent of its income to put an infant and a preschooler in licensed family child care in Whatcom County — making it the least affordable in the state.

Compare that to the statewide average of 27 percent of the median income.

A licensed family childcare is one that’s in a provider’s home.

A Whatcom County family will spend 39.5 percent of its income to put an infant and preschooler in a licensed center. That’s the third most expensive in the state for that category of child care.

The statewide average was 34 percent of the median income.

The high cost of child care is something that Whatcom County parents know well.

Scarce space has led parents here to put their unborn children on wait lists, which can stretch a year or more.

When it comes to the burden of paying for child care, Whatcom County isn’t alone.

Child care costs were a problem across the state’s 39 counties, especially for low-income parents, Child Care Aware of Washington said in a release.

In addition to Whatcom, the other counties that faced high child care costs were Okanogan, Whitman and Skagit.

It’s a problem families experience statewide, given that household incomes and state subsidies for low-income parents aren’t keeping up with the increase in child care costs, according to the organization.

“All areas contend with child care costs that often exceed the cost of college tuition and a state subsidy system that reimburses providers at rates that don’t cover the costs of providing high-quality care, leaving many low-income parents with few, if any, options,” Child Care Aware of Washington states.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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