The economy is down, unemployment is up and working parents are struggling more to make ends meet. For those who have young children that need day care, that struggle is even harder.
A study by released this morning by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) says the annual costs of child care now exceed the cost of sending a child to college in several states.
Last year in Maryland, families spent an average of $12,367 to care for one infant. To care for one infant during that same period, families in Connecticut spent an average of $12,755, $13,650 in Minnesota, $13,676 in New York and $19,000 in Massachusetts, according to the report titled "Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2010 Update."
In fact, the report revealed that in 39 states and Washington, D.C., the average annual day care cost for an infant exceeded the cost of a year's tuition and fees at a four-year public college.
Click HERE to read the full report.
"We do not generally think of child care as that expensive, and families, when they have an infant, are basically on the lower end of their earning power as opposed to a family who's got a child in college," Linda Smith, executive director of NACCRRA, told "Good Morning America."
Pam Tatum, CEO of Quality Care for Children, a Georgia parental resources organization, said parents were "caught in a bind.
"Without child care they cannot work, and unless they work they can't pay for child care," she said.
Faridah Skeete knows that all too well.
"I didn't realize how expensive it was until I lost my job," she told "GMA."
She was no longer able to afford full-time day care for her 3-year-old son on her own, but Quality Care for Children is now helping her pay her child care bills for the next few weeks while she goes out to look for work.
"I'm hoping it will last at least until I get a job," Skeete said of the help she's receiving.
Jessica Howell is unemployed, and her unemployment checks are going to stop coming in two weeks.
She needs a job that pays her well enough so she can send her daughter to day care every day that she has to work.
"I couldn't accept minimum wage and still be able to put my daughter in child care and have food on the table," she told "GMA."
Federal guidelines recommend that families spend no more than 10 percent of their income on child care, but the real costs today exceed that by two or three times.
The NACCRRA report says monthly child care fees for two children of any age exceeded the median monthly rent cost in every state, and were nearly as high -- and in some cases higher -- than the average monthly mortgage payment in every state.
The report is based upon 2009 child care costs. The information was collected through a January survey of participating NACCRRA agencies.
As parents feel the crunch, they stop sending children to day care. And as those children stop attending, the centers are closing.
In Georgia alone, more than 2,400 centers shut their doors last year.
Theodora Bingham of Trinity AME Church Day Care said her operation has felt the impact of parents' struggles.
"Our per-school classes have decreased, our toddler room decreased, and our infant room, we … only have a few babies," she said.