Where Childcare Is an Economic Engine

Article/Op-Ed in The Atlantic
Oct. 5, 2016

Brigid Schulte wrote in The Atlantic about child care in Georgia, where, despite one of the nation’s first universal pre-k programs, parents in still struggle to make sense of the dollars and cents of early care.

At the end of a long day of work at a small sports-marketing firm in Atlanta, a very pregnant Micki Velmer is driving to pick up her 3-year-old son, Burke, from childcare when her car overheats and breaks down. Velmer’s husband, Jason, soon swings by to get her and then get both of them to the Frazer Center before it closes and starts charging late fees. Still, Velmer is uneasy.
In just a few short weeks, once their second child is born, the Velmers will be paying more than $2,800 a month—nearly $34,000 a year—for childcare for two children, more than the cost of the mortgage on their tidy ranch house in the suburbs. One year of care for their soon-to-be-born child, $1,450 a month, will be thousands of dollars more expensive than one year of in-state tuition at the University of Georgia. And they haven’t had 18 years to save up for it. Now, Micki Velmer thinks, is not the time for expensive car repairs.
Because high-quality, affordable infant care is so hard to find—in Atlanta, in Georgia, in the United States—the Velmers enrolled their baby before the child was even born in order to secure a spot. When Burke was born, Micki Velmer had no paid family leave whatsoever. This time around, she’ll get two weeks of paid parental leave, and she’ll extend that to 12 weeks total with other paid and unpaid time off. Jason Velmer, who works in digital marketing for a French company, will have four weeks of paid parental leave. All the while, they’ll be paying $4,350, plus a deposit for those three months, just to reserve their baby’s spot.