New Report: The Economy’s Impact on Parents’ Choices and Perceptions about Child Care

October 3, 2010

Quality and Cost Most Important Factors

Arlington, VA –October 4, 2010- Quality and cost are the most important factors for parents when choosing child care, according to a nationwide survey of parents released today by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). The report, The Economy’s Impact on Parents’ Choices and Perceptions about Child Care, surveyed 1,000 parents with young children on their perceptions about provider training, program inspections, and requirements for licensing, background checks and other child care issues. Parents were also asked about their attitudes toward public funding to increase the quality, availability and affordability of child care.

“For many families, the cost of quality child care is simply too high,“ said Linda Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. “In today’s economy, more parents are faced with having to choose unlicensed and unregulated child care settings in order to save money.”

Survey findings revealed that due to job losses and significant cuts in wages, the majority of parents have been forced to compromise on the quality of child care. More than half (51 percent) of families with children under age 5 say the economy has affected their child care arrangements in some way with more than three-fifths (63 percent) worried at least some of the time about paying their bills.

“If parents are faced with deciding whether to pay more for child care or buy other household necessities like groceries, child care is usually the first area where parents make adjustments to reduce costs,” Smith said. “In most instances, families are likely to spend more on child care then they do for health care and food combined.”
The survey also revealed that the majority of parents’ expectations far exceed licensing requirements in most states:

  1. 85 percent of parents believe that providers have undergone background checks
  2. 73 percent believe providers are trained in child development
  3. 78 percent of parents believe child care is licensed

The reality is that about half of states inspect child care settings only once a year or less, some inspect child care settings once every five or 10 years, and eight states grant family child care providers a license with no previous inspection or site visit. Further, many states allow federal funds to be used for license-exempt care with no inspections.

Report findings show that parents are willing to invest in quality child care. More than two-thirds of parents (73 percent) said that they support increased public funding for child care to improve the quality of care even if it would increase their taxes by $10 a year. Affordability of child care was also an important concern for families. Nearly two-thirds of parents (65 percent) said that they would support increased funding for child care to make child care more affordable for families even if it would increase their taxes by $10 a year.

More than 11 million children under age 5 spend approximately 35 hours per week in the care of someone other than a parent. To promote quality, affordable child care for families, NACCRRA recommends that Congress and states: require complete background checks, including fingerprints, for all paid providers prior to working with children; require inspections prior to issuing a license and regular unannounced inspections throughout the year; require that inspection results and substantiated complaints be publicly posted on the internet so that parents have accurate information; require 40 hours of pre-service training and 24 hours of annual training; and support local child care resource and referral agencies in their efforts to advance safe, affordable, quality care and early learning opportunities.
“Parents want quality child care and most agree that in order to provide for their families, additional help needed,” said Smith. “In order to fully support today’s workforce, policymakers must make it a priority to increase public investment in improving the quality of child care for all families."

For a full copy of the report, which includes NACCRRA recommendations, please visit For detailed information about data and regulations in individual states, visit the following websites:

  1. State Fact Sheetshas the most recent child care data by state
  2. We Can Do Betterstate sheets lists state child care center standards and oversight.
  3. Leaving Children to Chancestate sheets list state standards and oversight for family child homes.


NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, is our nation's leading voice for child care. We work with more than 800 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every local community have access to high quality, affordable childcare. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about NACCRRA and how you can join us in ensuring access to high-quality child care for all families, visit us at