Child Care

AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 348

The supervision and nurturing of a child, including casual and informal services provided by a parent and more formal services provided by an organized child care center.

Because there are many different views about how a child should be reared or nurtured, the topic of child care often involves controversial social and political issues. For instance, it may raise complex questions about a child's religious upbringing or whether a child should be disciplined with CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. Some people believe that providing child care outside the home undermines so-called traditional family structures in which the mother is considered the primary caretaker. Others are concerned primarily with broadening community responsibility for children and removing barriers for women who wish to enter and participate fully in the labor force. In addition, the term child care encompasses a wide range of services. It can include home-based care by a child's mother or father, care by a grandparent or other relative, care by a nanny, or care by an organized licensed facility or family center. It can also involve early childhood education such as that offered by nursery schools, Montessori schools, and kindergarten programs.

According to a 1997 study by the Urban Institute, an estimated 76 percent of preschool children with mothers who are employed are cared for by someone other than their parents. According to these statistics, center-based day-care centers cared for 32 percent of children throughout the United States. By comparison, 23 percent of the children were cared for by relatives, while 16 percent were cared for by a childcare provider in the provider's home. Six percent of the children were cared for by a nanny or a babysitter in the child's home.

Child care has always existed in the United States. Organized childcare centers in the early 1800s took the form of infant day schools in parts of Boston and New York. During the industrial revolution, and as a result of increased immigration to the United States, day nurseries were created in the late nineteenth century to care primarily for poor urban children. In New York City, in approximately 1910, 85 such nurseries cared for more than 5000 children each day. Day nurseries were privately run and charitable in nature and were intended to provide custodial supervision, hygiene instruction, and nutrition services. Later, many middle-class parents opted to enroll their children in kindergartens, educational programs adopted in parts of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century.

During WORLD WAR II, millions of women entered the workforce in war production areas. The need for an organized childcare program became acute. Congress responded by including provisions in the Community...

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