Wading through the paperwork involved in getting government help to pay for child care can be overwhelming to already overworked parents.
A new report by the Center for American Progress looks at how difficult it can be for low-income families to navigate an underfunded child care support system.
The study is called "Jumping Through Hoops and Set Up to Fail." Its author, Judith Warner, says as child care costs keep rising, quality pre-K and after-school programs are out of reach for many working families.
"You have to file a degree of paperwork that goes far beyond all those permission forms you normally file just for school," she points out. "And if things go wrong, your child loses a stable, good place in child care that brings them so many advantages."
The report takes a state-by-state look at child care costs.
In Illinois, the figure is more than $22,000 a year for parents with an infant and a four-year-old.
Warner says that often means having to look at cost over quality when it comes to child care.
Warner adds parents who qualify for assistance with child care expenses often aren't given a lot of help to navigate the system.
"You're dependent on people who may or may not lose your paperwork, and may or may not want to help you," she points out. "We are setting children up for lives of difficulty when we don't meet their most basic needs from the start."
The Center for American Progress report makes some recommendations, including less paperwork for parents and more child care funding.
Last fall, the group also proposed a "High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit," worth up to $14,000 per child, based on family income. The money would be paid directly to a child care provider chosen by the parents.