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Daycare Dilemma: Long wait times and high down payments leading to fewer daycare options

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two years ago, Lexi Varvares Ladage and her husband found out their family was growing. They would be welcoming a baby boy in April of 2023.

“It was perfect timing for us,” Ladage said.

Her daughter was just shy of her third birthday and attending daycare down the street.

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“You just want your kids to go to a good daycare that you trust,” Ladage said. “That’s where my daughter goes so I’m like he’s going there ‘cause I trust them. We called and my husband is looking at me like it’s a year and a half no matter where we go. I just remember being like oooh panic.”

The opening for her son would be in June of 2024. Ladage was due in April of 2023.

Not only that but to even save the spot, they needed to put down a deposit and pay a registration fee totaling $1,500.

“That’s a lot of money to be asking for,” Ladage said. “So here you are—stressed out. I’m pregnant and very very sick, and we’re like well I guess we’re gonna have to do it.”

This comes as childcare in Jacksonville is scarce in portions of our area, according to data from the Center for American Progress, specifically in Springfield, Avondale, the Northside, and Downtown.

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A report from BabyCenter showed 40% of families in the United States who are looking for child care have been put on a waitlist, with an average wait time of six months. 13% of those families waited a year or longer.

“Families are scrambling and that’s the last thing, the last thing you should be worrying about when you’re pregnant,” Ladage said.

The price tag is putting some families in debt or taking away from other financial goals. A survey of more than 2,200 parents in the U.S. shows that most parents said they couldn’t save as much as they wanted to in order to afford daycare. Others said they dipped into savings or couldn’t pay off other debt because of the cost of childcare.

“My best recommendation is as soon as you figure out you’re pregnant let them know,” Ladage offered.

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Some ways to cut the cost of childcare is to look for scholarships or financial assistance through a non-profit. There is also usually a discount for military personnel or programs specifically for military families. You should also look out for sibling discounts.

You can also apply for vouchers through the Administration for Children and Families.

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