From clothes and toys to cribs and car seats – not to mention hospital bills – having a baby is expensive. Really expensive. And one of the biggest expenses Alabama parents will face is childcare.
That’s especially true in Shelby County – an affluent county south of Birmingham – where parents pay the most in the state for childcare, seeing an average cost of almost $200 per child per week.
In Alabama, the price of child care varies based on a number of factors, including the type of facility, the age of the child and the county you live in. But a state study finds those costs have been climbing in recent years regardless of where you live.
The Child Care Services division of the Office of Child Care Subsidy at the Alabama Department of Human Services along with researchers at Alabama State University released a report on the rising cost of childcare across the state in 2021. Here’s what they found:
[Can’t see the map? Click here.]
The study broke down childcare cost by three different types of licensed day care facility – daycare centers, which handle more than 12 children at a time; group family day cares, which handle between seven and 12 children; and family day cares, which handle fewer than seven children.
Looking solely at the cost for daycare centers – the largest and most expensive of the three – Shelby County stood out as the most expensive for every age group.
The average weekly cost of infant childcare in suburban Shelby County came to $195 per child, based on the study. That’s $22 per week more than Madison County, home to Huntsville in North Alabama, which came second with an average cost of $173 per child per week.
Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, came third, with childcare for infants running parents $163 per week, on average.
On the other end of the spectrum, Pickens County, in west Alabama along the Mississippi border, had the cheapest infant childcare at just $68 per week, according to the study.
Statewide, the average cost for childcare is going up. The study compared the average cost for childcare in 2017 to the cost in 2021, and it’s gotten more expensive in every region in the state. And the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help.
According to the study, roughly 17% of childcare facilities surveyed said they increased prices due to the pandemic, and prices in those facilities went up by an average of 17%.