By Myra Segal
May 24, 2011

Finding high-quality affordable child care remains one of the biggest challenges for New Mexico’s working families. Three out of five New Mexico children need care outside the home while their parents work. And as any parent knows, child care is expensive. According to a recent market survey, child care costs about $6,000 to $7,000 a year. That is a big chunk of any parent’s take-home pay. In fact, it’s more than tuition at UNM!

The good news is that New Mexico has a sliding-fee child care assistance program that helps working parents keep their child in a safe and nurturing environment while they work. The bad news is that state budget cuts have meant that thousands of families are being turned away. Currently, there are about 5,400 children on the waiting list with no hope of being served this year. This is how bad off you must be to qualify for child care assistance: A single parent making $15,000 a year with one child is making too much money. Such a parent is faced with the choice of either spending more than a third of his or her wages on child care or finding affordable care that may not meet state requirements for safety and quality.

Child care assistance has been lauded by politicians and parents alike as the most effective way to make work pay. Nevertheless, the numbers of families able to get this important support are dropping. New Mexico’s families deserve the opportunity to work with the sense of security knowing their children are not only in a safe place, but spending their day in a place that fosters their development.

Myra Segal is the Deputy Policy Director at New Mexico Voices for Children with a focus on early childhood policy