Rising childcare costs impacting Idaho families


One mom said that parents are not only trying to find affordable childcare but also quality childcare, and the two are not always synonymous.

BOISE, Idaho — Childcare is one of the biggest expenses for parents – a necessity that costs many families more and more every year.

Marina Ebrahimpour is a mom of three. Not only are Ebrahimpour and her husband trying to find affordable childcare, they are also trying to find quality childcare.

“You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “You want to keep them safe, but at the same time, you don’t want your whole budget to go on childcare.”

Right now, Ebrahimpour pays $500 a month for her youngest daughter’s childcare. A price she said is actually fairly affordable.

Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (IDAEYC) found a full-time worker making minimum wage spends about 50% of their income on childcare for one child.

Ebrahimpour’s other daughter started kindergarten this fall. So, before school started, she said they were paying double that amount.

For the past five years, Ebrahimpour said she stayed at home with her kids while also going to school. But now, she is working at a nearby childcare center.

“I’m fortunate enough that my husband works full time and has a good job,” she said. “But if we were to rely on my pay solely to pay for childcare, I don’t think that would be enough.”

Historically, childcare workers do not make much money. IDAEYC executive director Beth Oppenheimer said the average salary is about $10 an hour.

But inflation is changing things. Child Care Aware of America data shows childcare prices actually outpaced inflation last year. As a result, she said salaries are increasing.

Oppenheimer said some childcare centers are paying workers upwards of $18 an hour.

“They’re having to increase to be able to hire the workers to be in the classrooms to serve the families,” she said. “And who pays for that, right? All of those increases are going on the backs of families.”

For Ebrahimpour, it is a unique predicament.

“I’m on both sides of it,” she said. “I need childcare. And on the other side, I’m providing childcare for others, which is very unaffordable for a regular family.”

As for what the childcare industry looks like in the future, Oppenheimer said she is unsure. In Idaho, the childcare industry relies exclusively on federal funding.

The state received a substantial amount of money from the federal government for childcare to help with COVID-19 recovery. But now, she said that money is running out.

“At some point, there is going to be a brink of collapse,” Oppenheimer said. “And I’m not sure who’s going to come in and save it.”

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