The Cost of Child Care is Straining Families. Here’s How We Can Make it More Affordable.

For too many families in America, getting through the month means choosing between necessities like food, rent, or child care — or going into debt just to pay the bills.

That’s not right. Our country is failing hardworking families and it’s time we took steps to change that.

And part of that means giving parents the peace of mind that when they’re at work, their children are safe and in good hands.

As we recognize Children’s Week, we must make it clear that every working parent deserves access to high-quality, affordable care for their child.

In communities across the nation, child care is one of the most expensive necessities for working families — often the single most expensive item on their budget. In California, the annual cost of child care at a private home is over $10,600. At child care centers the annual cost is over $16,500. For a single parent, that can mean spending over 60% of your income on child care for a single child or the entirety of your income for two or more children.

These costs force many parents to choose between paying for child care or leaving the workforce all together.

We also know that nearly half of Americans live in child care “deserts,” where there are more children than spots available or no child care providers at all.

Our children and our families deserve better than this. That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor the Child Care for Working Families Act, led by my friend Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), which would place a reasonable cap on the amount of money low- and middle-income families are forced to pay for child care.

Under this plan, many parents wouldn’t be required to pay for child care at all. It would also invest in child care providers across the country to make sure that they have the support to care for every child who needs it.

And while it’s critical that we pass this bill in Congress, the truth is that the work won’t end there. Our country needs more bold action to truly meet the needs of children and working families.

That means passing legislation to guarantee paid family, sick, and parental leave for every American worker. It means funding universal pre-K. It means making children central to our decision-making process when we consider new bills and make spending decisions in Congress.

We must also think creatively about how to ease the burdens that school schedules create for working parents, including how to better address the needs of families during the summer months.

I believe that our society will be judged based on how we treat the most vulnerable among us. It’s time we make a national commitment to supporting hardworking families so all of our children have the opportunity to thrive.