DIGGING DEEPER: High cost of childcare - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: High cost of childcare

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Chippewa Valley (WQOW) – Every day, thousands of Wisconsin parents pay someone else to watch their kids while they go to work. That service is not cheap, with many finding they barely make enough to cover the cost of child care. 

Only 12 states have day care that is more expensive than Wisconsin. With all the money that parents are paying, many might think that day care providers are getting rich -- but they would be wrong.

Deanna North lives in New Auburn, but works in Eau Claire. Her newborn baby spends his days at a daycare in Bloomer. North says her son, Bronson, is the love of her life but adding day care costs on top of other expenses is tough.

"Financially, a child is very expensive and I am learning that in the four months of having Bronson," says North. "Unexpected expenses like healthcare is on the rise, as well being sick, food, diapers -- it all adds up. I can't imagine it being any more expensive."

She is not alone. Wisconsin parents spend an average of $11,500 a year on infant daycare per child. It is cheaper for older kids, but for infants, the price tag is the 13th highest in the nation. It's also about $3,000 more than average in-state college tuition. 

North says she knows that proper care costs money.

"I think it is important to make sure you know where you are bringing your child, do background checks on the places.. make sure you feel comfortable with the daycare you choose," says North.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child care is considered 'affordable' if it costs no more than 10% of a family's income. That means a Wisconsin family would need to make more than $115,000 a year for childcare to be considered affordable.

"It's just an extra added expense to your household payments, like house payments. That's not including diapers and formula, so things start to add up," says North.

So, why is it so expensive and where is the money going?

Cassi Stoeklen owns the Learning Tree Child Care Center in Eau Claire. State law says there needs to be one staff member for every four kids up to two years old. For her business, that means 27 employees. Stoeklen also needs to pay for food and supplies for the children, taxes, utilities, building maintenance, and liability insurance. When all is said and done, she and her family are not left with a lot of money.

"I am not going to become rich off of owning a childcare center. There are a lot of expenses I feel like people don't realize you have to pay for," says Stoeklen. "I do love what I do. I'm in this business to provide quality care for my children. I also tell parents that if they want quality care, they do end up having to pay a little bit more to get that quality care."

The employees are also not getting rich. Wisconsin daycare workers average $10 and hour. According to the Economic Policy Institute, they would have to spend more than 57% of their earning to put their own kids in day care. So employees are feeling the burden too.

"I want parents to feel that family-welcoming place for their family. You are providing a place that is kind of like home for them. A lot of them are here 12 hours a day," says Stoeklen.

North admits that thanks to her work schedule, Bronson does not have to attend daycare every day. But if he did, she is not sure she could afford the cost.

"I cannot imagine. It would be almost an extra house payment for us if we had to go five days a week," says North. "We are fortunate that I only work three days a week."

Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers are working on a bill that would allow parents to claim a state income tax credit for childcare, similar to the credit parents claim on their federal taxes. It would allow parents to receive $3,000 for a single child and $6,000 for two or more children.

State Republicans says they agree the cost of childcare is high and that is should be addressed, but have yet to release a plan of their own at this time.

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