Deschutes County

Child care costs taking bigger bite in C. Oregon

OSU: Prices up 13 percent since '04; income off 9 percent

Rising child care costs hit C.O. families hard

BEND, Ore. - New and expecting parents these days are having to worry about paying for much more than diapers, formula and the hospital bill.

Child care in Oregon is more expensive than nearly anywhere else in the country.

According to a new report from Oregon State University, only two other states charge more. The average annual cost of toddler care at a child care center in the state is now $11,064, up from $10,392 in 2011.

What's more, those costs increased 13 percent from 2004 to 2012 while household incomes declined 9 percent.

Maybe the most surprising: Parents today pay more to send their child to day care than to college. The median annual price of child care in Deschutes County is $8,100. The average annual cost of public university tuition in Oregon,  just over $6,679.

"Parents are probably putting us right below their house payment," said Tammy Rundle, the director of Growing Tree Children's Center in Bend.

Rundle says she's doing what she can to keep costs affordable for families, while maintaining a growing program.

"We do have a small incremental change every year, but we try to keep that between 1- 3 percent."

Growing Tree is so popular many parents are signing up the moment they know they are expecting a baby -- or before.  

"Our infant waiting list has about 50 babies on it," Rundle said. "Most of them probably won't get in right now. We get many newly pregnant parents that are on our wait list."

While some parents said they would rather pay more for better care, the high costs are still hurting their wallets.

Bend residents Micah and Alicia Wood are first-time parents to 7-month-old Alexa. They're loving parenthood, but dreading the future day care days.

"I have a ton of friends saying I can't afford to work. It's either I go to work during the day and not spend time with my child, just so I can pay to not spend time with my child -- it just doesn't really make sense," Alicia said.

The high costs have forced many families like the Woods to rely on a parent, relative or close friend to watch the kids.

"Family and friends have come through for us over and over again," Alicia said.

"Why not just leave her with grandma and grandpa and have them take care of her?" Micah added.

But just to be safe, the Woods are doing what most parents are having to do -- start saving now.

"Hopefully the cost doesn't go up by the time we do have to consider day care," Alicia said.

The complete OSU report, including breakout data and interactive maps on child care statistics in every Oregon county is available here:

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