How much does it cost to have one infant enrolled in licensed childcare in San Diego? The answer: an average of $19,000. In fact, these days, parents can expect to pay more for licensed infant care than in-state college tuition.

Pamela Gray Payton, San Diego Foundation (SDF) Vice President, Chief Impact and Partnerships Officer, recently shared these striking statistics and other results of the SDF Workforce, Childcare + Change Report at a special childcare-centered San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 12.

“The cost of childcare is one of the greatest barriers local families face,” she said. “This high cost makes care unrealistic for many families. Many parents are forced to make a difficult decision – ‘do I stay engaged in the workforce or do I care for my child?’”

Affordability and Availability Obstacles

According to the report, California ranks among the worst states for affordable childcare. Californians pay 26% higher than the national average for childcare, but San Diego is 15% higher than the state average.

The cost, however, is only one obstacle. At the meeting, Gray Payton joined Stefanie Benvenuto, Vice President of Public Affairs at San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Johanna Puno Hester, Assistant Executive Director at United Domestic Workers, to not only raise awareness about the lack of affordable childcare in the region, but also the lack of childcare availability.

“As we recover from the pandemic, understanding the needs of children, working parents and their care providers is essential to constructing a more resilient future,” Payton said.

Statistics show 77% of parents struggle to find available childcare in San Diego County. Many licensed childcare centers have extremely long wait lists, and several areas of the county are considered ‘child care deserts.’

Stressing the Workforce

Most disproportionately impacted, according to Gray Payton and the SDF report, are lower income workers, working parents without college degrees, single parents/sole decision makers, and women – especially women of color. All these factors put added stress on the workforce.

“A lack of access to affordable childcare has had a direct impact on workforce engagement, affecting employees and business,” said Gray Payton. “The ripple effect caused by this challenge has disrupted industries and economies.”

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher echoed the urgency to address the issue through government involvement.

“The single best thing we can do to help kids, parents, our business, our economy and our workers is tackle this issue of how we can get to a place of quality affordable, universal child care,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to develop a childcare blueprint over the course of the next eight months.

To read more about childcare issues in San Diego County, read the SDF Workforce, Childcare and Change Report.

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