In this photo taken Sept. 10, 2018, Steve Schalekamp, right, tosses aside his socks so that he can match his barefooted family of wife Tricia, left, and sons Alex, 6, second left, and Evan, 9, as they pose for a portrait at their home in Seattle. The family paid at least $500 in non-refundable waiting list fees for preschool for Evan, now a third grader, and never even got a call back from those places. The money-back-not-guaranteed caveat to an already grueling, emotional search for daycare services is now becoming routine in booming U.S. cities, where demand for high-quality preschools is high and supply is starkly limited. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Preschool waiting-list fees common even without enrollment

September 29, 2018 - 9:42 am

SEATTLE (AP) — When it comes to coveted child care services in America's most expensive cities, blame the high demand for high-quality preschools and starkly limited supply for a new pay-to-play phenomenon: the "waiting list fee."

It's a money-back-not-guaranteed caveat that is fast becoming routine in some parts of the U.S.

And it's also exacerbating an already grueling, emotional search for daycare services for many working parents wrestling with a dire child care workforce crisis that has led to these long, costly waitlists.

While many eventually get their kids into child care programs, others make due by patching up nanny hours, hiring live-in au pairs and relying on family members.

The waiting list fees are generally considered a deposit for future enrollment, though services are never guaranteed, and in many cases, never offered.