Childcare Options in the USA

Posted On: October 21, 2015

Coming to the US as an expat is exciting. Relocating with children adds the additional responsibility of looking for childcare options in the USA. Let’s take a look at daycare and childcare in the USA.

While a majority of offshore team members are male, now a days, there are considerable numbers of female IT and software engineers with H1-B or L1 visas in hand ready to take their spouse and child(ren) to the U.S. for short or long term assignments. For those with children, the question of daycare arises, especially if both spouses know they will be working once landing in the U.S.

Handing over your child to a stranger for a few hours up to a day is a scary experience for parents. Add to that handing your child over to strangers in a foreign culture, where the mannerisms, interactions, parenting and socialization are all very different. It can be overwhelming, emotional and stressful. This post will provide some guidelines to the practicalities of childcare in the U.S. to help you make the best decision for your family’s situation. 

It’s important to note that children as young as newborns up to an average age of 12 can attend American daycare centers. While there are federal and state guidelines around age, the facility itself can decide their own age ranges within legal limits. For instance, some daycares only work with infants, some only with toddlers, and others only with school-going children of particular age groups. Let’s look at some more features of daycare centers in the U.S.

What are the types of daycare centers available in the U.S.?
The below article authored by Language Intelligence, showcases the seven types of daycare, along with their pros and cons.

How Much You’ll Spend on Childcare from Authentic Journeys

How much does daycare cost?
Some Americans may decide not to have children simply because the cost of childcare is out of reach. Sometimes, if both parents are working, the majority of one parent’s income may go toward childcare. In fact 64% of Americans surveyed by the New York Times in late 2018 cited skyrocketing day care costs as one of the most compelling reasons not to have children (source). It’s not only citizens who worry about these inflated costs, but 72% percent of expat parents surveyed by the Expat Insider also find childcare and raising children in the US hard to afford.

The image above from the Economic Policy Institute (source) showcases childcare costs as per state in the United States. The darker blue, the more expensive the childcare is in that state. Checking this site in early 2019, the most expensive state is Massachusetts at a little over $17,000 per year (more expensive than one year of in-state college tuition). In fact, Washington D.C. surpasses Massachusetts with childcare costs exceeding 22 thousand dollars. The most affordable state is Mississippi at a little under than five grand a year. 

For more information on childcare costs across various states, read the article below from

American Daycare Primer for Expats from Authentic Journeys

How do expat parents manage or cope up with daycare expenses? 
A few ways I have heard and experiences expats handling childcare expenses in the US are:

  • Sponsoring parents or other family to visit the US on a rotating basis to help with childcare
  • Leaving the child(ren) in their home country to live with relatives (both spouses come to the US to work)
  • One spouse stays at home caring for the child(ren) and continuing to work in their home country (this happens especially if the trailing spouse can’t get a visa or knows they won’t be able to work in the US and has a pretty good career in their home country) 
  • For those with older children, both parents come to the US and help the child(ren) learn to be independent before and after school. Keep in mind, though each state does have rules on what age you can leave your children home alone. In some cases, if a family have older and younger children, I have heard of the older children coming to the US to go to school (since they can care for themselves before or after school), while the younger children stay in the home country being cared for by one of the spouses or relatives 
  • Hiring a nanny 
  • Some very lucky expats in the US may work for a company with an onsite daycare center or some type of employer subsidized or sponsored daycare. Very fortunate expats may have a chance to negotiate childcare as a part of their salary package. 
  • Others (feel free to share in the comments)

I have heard of some expat families using nannies or other types of homecare or daycare solutions (like a few listed in this article). Keep in mind that when hiring a childcare provider, each state has certain rules and laws for those working in this profession. Assure that your daycare provider is a Licensed Child Care Provider as per your state’s regulations.

Daycare in the U.S. is expensive and will continue to rise. It’s important to do your research before choosing a childcare provider. For expats relocating to the U.S. through their employer, a good option is to ask your onsite Human Resources (HR) representative or other colleagues with children of the same age group to get their feedback and recommendations. 

Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, provides cross-cultural business and lifestyle coaching to expat employees and their spouses traveling to the U.S. from any country. Contact us for more information on onsite or virtual training programs.

Related Posts:
Reverse Culture Shock Faced by NRI Kids 
Back to School Season in the U.S.A.  
3 Ways to Make U.S. Relocations Easier for Expats 
Onsite may last longer than you think!

Article updated: Jan 2019 

Image by vectorjuice on Freepik


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