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Indiana ranks 24th in child well-being, unaffordable childcare remains a burden

Indiana ranks 24th in child well-being, according to the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. However, our country’s lack of affordable and accessible childcare short-changes children and causes parents in Indiana to frequently miss work or even quit their jobs, while those who can find care are paying dearly for it. These childcare challenges cost the American economy billions of dollars a year. Although last year’s and this year’s rankings cannot be directly compared due to data shifts, an overall child well-being rank of 24th compared to other states is Indiana’s highest ranking in 10 years.

“The past couple of years have challenged all of us, but particularly our kids, families, and youth workers. The differences in the data emerging after 2020 reflects that,” said Tami Silverman, president & CEO of Indiana Youth Institute, Indiana’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “But opportunities for progress that support Indiana’s youth have still emerged. Now is the time to expand and explore that progress. Our work and the work of the thousands of youth workers, educators, parents, and caregivers is not finished until all children are safe, well-educated, healthy and supported.”

The Data Book reports too many parents cannot secure childcare that is compatible with work schedules and commutes. According to the Data Book, in 2020-21, 9% of children birth to age 5 in Indiana lived in families in which someone quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with childcare. And women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving.

Even if parents can find an opening at childcare near their home, they often can’t pay for it. Indiana is one of 33 states where infant care is more expensive than in-state tuition at public colleges. Indiana’s average cost of center-based childcare for a toddler was $7,884, 7.9% of median income for a married couple and 25.8% of a single mother’s income in the state.

While the cost of care burdens families, childcare workers are paid worse than 98% of professions. Median national pay for childcare workers was $28,520 per year or $13.71 an hour in 2022, less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers.

The shortcomings of the childcare market also affect the current and future health of the American economy, costing $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue, according to one study. These challenges put parents under tremendous stress to meet the dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured.

“A good childcare system is essential for kids to thrive and our economy to prosper. But our current approach fails kids, parents, and childcare workers by every measure,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Without safe childcare they can afford and get to, working parents face impossible choices, affecting not only their families, but their employers as well.”

Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall. This year, compared to other states in the county Indiana ranks:

  • 24th in Overall Child Well-Being
  • 31st in Family and Community
  • 29th in Health
  • 16th in Economic Well-Being
  • 13th in Education

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