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Arizona one of least-affordable states for child care

What are some options?
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jul 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-05 21:23:05-04
Arizona is one of the least-affordable states for child care in the country. 
 
The high costs leave many parents with a tough choice. 
 
"It's really hard. Do I pay the rent or do I pay child care? Do I have a car payment or do I pay child care? Do I put food on the table or do I pay child care," said Michelle Saint Hilarie with Child and Family Resources.
 
According to Child Care Aware of America, about 13% of a parent's income in Arizona goes toward child care. 
 
But a lot of times it's more than that. 
 
"What we see is it's really around 25-30% of the family's income and possibly even higher if it's infant care," said Hilarie.
 
In Pima County, the average annual price per child at a child care center is about $10,140 for a child under one, $8,710 for children between 1 and 2-years, $7,700 for kids age 3 and up.
 
The costs adding up even more for single parents with multiple kids.
 
In many cases, it's cheaper for parents to sacrifice their jobs than to pay for care.
 
"We made the decision that I ended up leaving work because it was such a high cost to have two kids in child care," said Roxanna Martinez, a parent.
 
The Department of Economic Security offers assistance to some low-income families who meet their eligibility requirements.
 
But if you don't qualify for that, Hilarie says that, "sometimes the risk increases for the child because they might be left at home or with a family friend or neighbor that doesn't have the proper education and training or even the background checks to care for children. So children that fall between that gap are put at a higher risk.
 
And leaving kids in the hands of someone unqualified could lead to disaster.
 
"Not knowing that the quality of child care is what is important for your child. My daughter eventually got hurt at a non-licensed child care," said Janet Moreno, a parent.
 
A mistake that fortunately didn't end in a tragedy.
 
"She was doing her thing, playing around at the household she got up on a chair, sat on a little wall that divided both rooms. She fell backwards, hit her head, by an inch or two the doctors told us that she could have broken her neck," said Moreno.
 
Child and Family Resources offers a referral program to help parents find the right child care for their needs. They provide families with a list of certified commercial and home child care centers and that fit a variety of budgets. 
 
The University of Arizona offers a voucher program to help defer the costs of child care for eligible employees.