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New government reports paint child care system as 'unworkable'

One in 6 affected adults, usually a woman, have left their job in order to care for children.
Children play together in the 3-year-old class at Little Flowers Early Childhood and Development Center located in Baltimore on Jan. 11, 2021.
Children play together in the 3-year-old class at Little Flowers Early Childhood and Development Center in Baltimore. In Maryland, about 1 in 3 adults in households with those 4 and younger reported taking a child out of child care in the previous four weeks.Matt Roth for The Washington Post / via Getty Images

New reports from two government agencies suggest that the child care system is failing families, and not just during the pandemic.

According to data from a Census Bureau survey, the pandemic introduced strains that caused 3 in 10 adults with young children — 6.6 million total adults — to remove kids from child care this summer.

A Treasury Department report released Wednesday states that 1 out of 6 dollars in family income goes to pay for child care, which is more than the average family spends on groceries and close to double what the government calls affordable.

“The free market works well in many different sectors, but child care is not one of them,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at a news conference Wednesday.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey taken Aug. 18-30, more than 31 million adults (of the 63 million parents and the 258 million adults in the country) live in households with a child 4 years old or younger. Of those that responded to the survey, 29 percent had removed a child from child care for safety reasons in the four weeks preceding the survey. Women made up 60 percent of the affected adults.

The impact varied by state, but was felt the most in the South and parts of the Intermountain West:

In April, the Biden administration proposed creating free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, among other family-focused initiatives.