Skip to main content
Select Source:

Caring for Children

Chapter 3: Caring for Children

SOCIETAL CHANGES AND WORKING MOTHERS
WHO CARES FOR CHILDREN IN THE UNITED STATES?
FACTORS THAT AFFECT CHILD CARE
FORMAL CHILD CARE FACILITIES
THE COST OF CHILD CARE

SOCIETAL CHANGES AND WORKING MOTHERS

In the early twenty-first century, women with young children were much more likely to work outside the home than they had been three decades previously. Jane Lawler Dye of the U.S. Census Bureau reports in Fertility of American Women: June 2004 (December 2005, http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p20-555.pdf) that in 1976, 31% of women aged 15 to 44 with a child under 12 months old worked. By 1998, this number had risen to 59% of allwomen with a child under 12months old; from 2000 through 2004 the number stabilized at 55% of allwomenwho had given birth in the past year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates in the press release Employment Characteristics of Families in 2007 (May 30, 2008, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf) that in 2007 this percentage had increased slightly to 55.1%. In 2007, 63.3% of mothers with children under the age of six and 77.2% of mothers with school-age children were in the labor force. (See Table 3.1.)

Many factors contributed to the greater proportion of mothers in the workforce. Legislation passed in the late 1970s made it more possible for women to return to work after the birth of a child. In 1976 tax code changes allowed families a tax credit on child care costs, making it more financially feasible for women to return to work. In 1978 the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, making it illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring, firing, promoting, or determining pay levels based on pregnancy or childbirth. In 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed, requiring employers to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbearing or family care each year.

Societal changes also contributed to the greater number of women with young children participating in the labor force. In Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns, 19611995 (November 2001, http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p70-79.pdf), Kirsten Smith, Barbara Downs, and Martin O'Connell of the Census Bureau review the changing demographic profile of first-time mothers between the 1960s and 1990s to explain, in part, this increase. The researchers emphasize that during this period the incidence of first-time motherhood at age 30 and older tripled and that first-time mothers in the 1990s tended to be better educated than their 1960 counterparts. These older, well-educated mothers often viewed their jobs as long-term careers and believed time lost could adversely affect their ability to hold a position and earn promotions and could decrease contributions to retirement funds. This trend continued into the twenty-first century. Joyce A. Martin et al. of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note in Births: Final Data for 2005 (National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 56, no. 6, December 5, 2007) that the mean age of first-time mothers reached 25.2 years in 2003, up from 22.7 years in 1980 and an all-time high for American women; this age remained unchanged in 2005. However, by the end of 2006, Martin et al. indicate in Births: Final Data for 2006 (National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 57, no. 7, January 7, 2009) that the age had dropped to 25the first decline in some 40 years.

Furthermore, the increasing number of single mothers meant that more women had to work to support their families. In 1970, 3.4 million women maintained single-parent households; by 2007 this number had tripled to 9.9 million. (See Table 1.7 in Chapter 1.) Changes in government programs that provided assistance to poor families also resulted in increasing numbers of single mothers entering the workforce. In 1996 the federal government placed a two-year time limit on receiving public assistance benefits while not working, requiring poor parents to work even if they had to place young children in day care. In 2007, 72.8% of mothers in single-parent households worked. (See Table 3.2.) Nearly two-thirds (64.1%) of single mothers with children under three years old were in the labor force, with a 13.4% unemployment rate. (See Table 3.3.)

Married women have also entered the workforce in larger numbers. A decline in men's real wages plus a

 
TABLE 3.1 Employment status of population, by sex, marital status, and presence and age of own children under age 18, 2007
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2007
Total Men Women
With own children under 18 years
Civilian noninstitutional population 66,801 29,684 37,117
Civilian labor force 54,370 28,002 26,368
Participation rate 81.4 94.3 71.0
Employed 52,373 27,216 25,157
Employment-population ratio 78.4 91.7 67.8
Full-time workersa 45,336 26,282 19,053
Part-time workersb 7,037 933 6,104
Unemployed 1,998 786 1,211
Unemployment rate 3.7 2.8 4.6
Married, spouse present
Civilian noninstitutional population 53,432 27,205 26,227
Civilian labor force 43,824 25,784 18,041
Participation rate 82.0 94.8 68.8
Employed 42,625 25,134 17,492
Employment-population ratio 79.8 92.4 66.7
Full-time workersa 37,120 24,332 12,788
Part-time workersb 5,505 802 4,704
Unemployed 1,199 650 549
Unemployment rate 2.7 2.5 3.0
Other marital statusc
Civilian noninstitutional population 13,369 2,479 10,890
Civilian labor force 10,546 2,219 8,328
Participation rate 78.9 89.5 76.5
Employed 9,747 2,082 7,665
Employment-population ratio 72.9 84.0 70.4
Full-time workersa 8,216 1,950 6,266
Part-time workersb 1,531 132 1,400
Unemployed 799 137 662
Unemployment rate 7.6 6.2 8.0
With own children 6 to 17 years, none younger
Civilian noninstitutional population 36,983 16,384 20,599
Civilian labor force 31,179 15,269 15,910
Participation rate 84.3 93.2 77.2
Employed 30,176 14,866 15,310
Employment-population ratio 81.6 90.7 74.3
Full-time workersa 26,288 14,378 11,910
Part-time workersb 3,888 488 3,400
Unemployed 1,003 403 600
Unemployment rate 3.2 2.6 3.8
With own children under 6 years
Civilian noninstitutional population 29,818 13,299 16,518
Civilian labor force 23,192 12,733 10,458
Participation rate 77.8 95.7 63.3
Employed 22,197 12,350 9,847
Employment-population ratio 74.4 92.9 59.6
Full-time workersa 19,048 11,904 7,143
Part-time workersb 3,149 446 2,704
Unemployed 995 383 611
Unemployment rate 4.3 3.0 5.8

rising cost of living has led some two-parent families to decide to maintain two incomes to meet financial obligations and pay for their children's future college expenses. According to the Census Bureau, in The 2009 Statistical Abstract (2008, http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/09s0678.pdf), the median income in 2006 for married couples with one or more children under the age of 18 in which both the husband and wife worked was $86,338, which was significantly higher than the $57,452 median income for married-couple families in which the wife was

TABLE 3.1 Employment status of population, by sex, marital status, and presence and age of own children under age 18, 2007 [CONTINUED]
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2007
Total Men Women
a Usually work 35 hours or more a week at all jobs.
b Usually work less than 35 hours a week at all jobs.
c Includes never married, divorced, separated, and widowed persons.
Notes: 2006 estimates for total and for men differ from those published in the Employment Characteristics of Families in 2006 news release (USDL 07-0673) due to a change in the weights for the estimates of married men. Own children include sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted children. Not included are nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and other related and unrelated children. Data may not sum to totals due to rounding. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 5. Employment Status of the Population by Sex, Marital Status, and Presence and Age of Own Children under 18, 200607 Annual Averages, in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2007, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 30, 2008, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed November 2, 2008)
With no own children under 18 years
Civilian noninstitutional population 165,066 82,489 82,577
Civilian labor force 98,754 54,134 44,620
Participation rate 59.8 65.6 54.0
Employed 93,674 51,039 42,635
Employment-population ratio 56.7 61.9 51.6
Full-time workersa 75,755 43,752 32,003
Part-time workersb 17,919 7,286 10,632
Unemployed 5,080 3,095 10,632
Unemployment rate 5.1 5.7 4.4

not in the paid labor force. Table 3.1 shows that 68.8% of married women with children under the age of 18 were in the labor force in 2007, and Table 3.3 shows that 57.4% of married women with children under the age of three were in the labor force in that year. According to Table 3.2, in 62.2% of married-couple families with children under 18 years old, both parents were employed. Many families have come to depend on women's economic contributions to the household.

WHO CARES FOR CHILDREN IN THE UNITED STATES?

School-Age Children

Married parents who both work and single parents who work need reliable child care. The Federal Inter-agency Forum on Child and Family Statistics reports in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008 (2008, http://www.childstats.gov/pdf/ac2008/ac_08.pdf) that about half of children in kindergarten through eighth grade were cared for by someone other than their parents in 2005. (See Figure 3.1.) Of those who were cared for by someone other than parents, younger children were more likely to receive home- or center-based care for before- or after-school hours; children in grades four and up were less likely to receive these types of care and more likely to care for themselves. Only 2.6% of children in kindergarten through third grade cared for themselves regularly, whereas 22.2% of older children did. (See Table 3.4.)

 
TABLE 3.2 Employment status of parents, by age of youngest child and family type, 2007
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic Number Percent distribution
2007 2007
*No spouse present.
Note: Own children include sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted children. Not included are nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and other related and unrelated children. Data may not sum to totals due to rounding. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 4. Families with Own Children: Employment Status of Parents by Age of Youngest Child and Family Type, 200607 Annual Averages, in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2007, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 30, 2008, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee/pdf (accessed November 2, 2008)
With own children under 18 years
Total 35,856 100.0
Parent(s) employed 32,538 90.7
No parent employed 3,318 9.3
Married-couple families 25,125 100.0
Parent(s) employed 24,459 97.3
Mother employed 16,855 67.1
Both parents employed 15,627 62.2
Mother employed, not father 1,228 4.9
Father employed, not mother 7,604 30.3
Neither parent employed 666 2.7
Families maintained by women* 8,554 100.0
Mother employed 6,224 72.8
Mother not employed 2,330 27.2
Families maintained by men* 2,177 100.0
Father employed 1,855 85.2
Father not employed 322 14.8
With own children 6 to 17 years, none younger
Total 20,361 100.0
Parent(s) employed 18,619 91.4
No parent employed 1,742 8.6
Married-couple families 13,823 100.0
Parent(s) employed 13,435 97.2
Mother employed 10,126 73.3
Both parents employed 9,341 67.6
Mother employed, not father 785 5.7
Father employed, not mother 3,309 23.9
Neither parent employed 388 2.8
Families maintained by women* 5,224 100.0
Mother employed 4,070 77.9
Mother not employed 1,155 22.1
Families maintained by men* 1,314 100.0
Father employed 1,115 84.9
Father not employed 199 15.1
With own children under 6 years
Total 15,495 100.0
Parent(s) employed 13,918 89.8
No parent employed 1,576 10.2
Married-couple families 11,302 100.0
Parent(s) employed 11,024 97.5
Mother employed 6,729 59.5
Both parents employed 6,287 55.6
Mother employed, not father 442 3.9
Father employed, not mother 4,295 38.0
Neither parent employed 278 2.5
Families maintained by women* 3,329 100.0
Mother employed 2,154 64.7
Mother not employed 1,175 35.3
Families maintained by men* 863 100.0
Father employed 740 85.7
Father not employed 123 14.3

SELF-CARELATCHKEY KIDS . The term latchkey kids is used to describe children left alone or unsupervised either during the day or before or after school. These are children five to 14 years of age whose parents report child cares for self as either the primary or secondary child care arrangement. In 2005 approximately 5.6 million school-age children cared for themselves regularly without adult supervision. (See Table 3.5.) Self-care was higher among children who lived with their fathers without their mother present than it was among children who lived with their mothers, with or without their fathers present, in all age groups. Most of these children were 12 and older, but 1.5 million children 11 years of age and younger regularly took care of themselves. In Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Winter 2002 (October 2005, http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-101.pdf), Julia Overturf Johnson of the Census Bureau finds that the percentage of children in self-care held steady between 1997 and 2002 in both families with married parents and in families living with an unemployed single parent; however, the percentage of children of a single, employed parent in self-care actually declined from 24% in 1997 to 18% in 2002.

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTERS . More than half of all families use after-school programs, and in many families, parents rely on after-school care to provide a safe and nurturing place for their children while they are working. In response to concerns about the availability of quality after-school programs, the U.S. Department of Education initiated Twenty-First-Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), which was authorized under Title X, Part I, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and reauthorized under Title IV, Part B, of the No Child Left Behind Act. This initiative gives grants to low-performance elementary and middle schools in rural and urban areas to provide after-school opportunities for their students, both educational and recreational. In 1997 the 21st CCLC had a budget of only $1 million; by fiscal year 2008 the program's budget had increased tenfold, to $1.1 billion. According to the Department of Education, in 21st CCLC Profile and Performance Information Collection System (2008, http://ppics.learningpt.org/ppics/publicGrantSearch.asp), by 2008 the 21st CCLC supported 4,183 after-school programs across the country.

Deborah Lowe Vandell, Elizabeth R. Reisner, and Kim M. Pierce note in Outcomes Linked to High-Quality Afterschool Programs: Longitudinal Findings from the Study of Promising Afterschool Programs (October 2007, http://www.policystudies.com/studies/youth/Promising%20Programs%20Final%20Report%20FINAL%2010-23-07.pdf) that participation in high-quality afterschool programs in 2007 was associated with improved outcomes among disadvantaged students. The study included a group of 3,000 low-income, ethnically diverse elementary and middle school students. These students improved their

 
TABLE 3.3 Employment status of mothers with own children under three years old, by single year of age of youngest child and marital status, 2007
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic Civilian noninstitutional population Civilian labor force
Total Percent of population Employed Unemployed
Total Percent of population Full-time workersa Part-time workersb Number Percent of labor force
a Usually work 35 hours or more a week at all jobs.
b Usually work less than 35 hours a week at all jobs.
c Includes never married, divorced, separated, and widowed persons.
Notes: Own children include sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted children. Not included are nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and other related and unrelated children. Data may not sum to totals due to rounding. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 6. Employment Status of Mothers with Own Children Under 3 Years Old by Single Year of Age of Youngest Child and Marital Status, 200607 Annual Averages, in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2007, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 30, 2008, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed November 2, 2008)
2007
Total mothers
With own children under 3 years old 9,659 5,721 59.2 5,354 55.4 3,783 1,571 367 6.4
2 years 2,812 1,808 64.3 1,694 60.2 1,225 469 114 6.3
1 year 3,501 2,068 59.1 1,938 55.4 1,350 589 130 6.3
Under 1 year 3,346 1,845 55.1 1,721 51.4 1,208 513 123 6.7
Married, spouse present
With own children under 3 years old 7,018 4,027 57.4 3,888 55.4 2,730 1,157 140 3.5
2 years 2,076 1,281 61.7 1,230 59.2 881 349 51 4.0
1 year 2,536 1,433 56.5 1,388 54.7 954 434 46 3.2
Under 1 year 2,406 1,313 54.6 1,270 52.8 896 374 43 3.3
Other marital statusc
With own children under 3 years old 2,641 1,694 64.1 1,466 55.5 1,052 414 227 13.4
2 years 736 528 71.6 464 63.1 344 120 63 12.0
1 year 965 635 65.8 551 57.1 396 155 84 13.2
Under 1 year 940 531 56.5 451 48.0 312 139 80 15.1
   
TABLE 3.4 Percentage of children in kindergarten through eighth grade by weekday care and before- and after-school activities, by grade level, poverty, race, and Hispanic origin, 2005
Grade level, care arrangement, and activity Poverty status Race and Hispanic origina
Total Below 100% poverty 100199% poverty 200% poverty and above White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Asian Hispanic
a The 1997 OMB Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity were used, allowing persons to select one or more of five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Included in the total but not shown separately are American Indian or Alaska Native and respondents with two or more races. Respondents who reported the child being Asian or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander were combined. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
b Children may have multiple nonparental child care arrangements, in addition to being involved in more than one activity; thus, the total of the four kinds of nonparental arrangements may not sum to the category nonparental care. Likewise, the seven activities listed may not sum to the category any activity. Activities include organized programs a child participates in outside of school hours that are not part of a before- or after-school program.
c Home-based care includes care that takes place in a relative's or nonrelative's private home.
d Arts include activities such as music, dance, and painting.
e Academic activities include activities such as tutoring or math lab.
SOURCE: Table FAM3.C. Child Care: Percentage of Children in Kindergarten through 8th-Grade by Weekday Care and Before-and After-School Activities by Grade Level, Poverty Status, and Race and Hispanic Origin, 2005, in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2008,http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp (accessed November 2, 2008)
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Care arrangements
Parental care only 53.1 52.0 54.5 53.0 58.3 34.6 49.9 55.3
Nonparental careb 46.9 48.0 45.5 47.0 41.7 65.4 50.1 44.7
Home-based carec 23.6 25.2 24.5 22.6 22.0 32.2 26.5 20.4
Center-based care 24.4 25.0 21.6 25.2 20.5 39.8 21.4 23.4
Activities used for supervision 5.2 3.1 5.3 6.0 4.8 5.8 13.4 3.2
Self care 2.6 5.1 3.6 1.3 1.6 4.1 3.6 4.2
Activities
Any activityb 46.2 24.3 34.0 59.5 56.2 30.4 45.8 30.4
Sports 31.8 12.1 19.5 44.3 40.2 16.8 29.3 20.8
Religious activities 19.4 13.5 14.8 23.4 24.0 14.6 11.5 11.9
Artsd 17.2 6.0 10.8 24.1 21.8 8.3 27.1 8.2
Scouts 12.9 5.3 8.0 17.8 18.2 4.9 11.1 3.8
Academic activitiese 4.7 3.8 3.8 5.3 5.1 4.4 7.4 3.5
Community services 4.2 1.9 3.0 5.5 5.3 3.3 2.6 1.7
Clubs 3.2 1.3 2.4 4.3 4.3 1.1 4.2 1.8
4th through 8th grade
Care arrangements
Parental care only 46.9 46.7 45.2 47.6 51.2 34.5 44.2 45.0
Nonparental careb 53.1 53.3 54.8 52.4 48.8 65.5 55.8 55.0
Home-based carec 18.1 15.0 20.0 18.4 16.4 24.1 17.5 18.6
Center-based care 19.0 21.3 21.3 17.4 14.2 28.9 21.9 25.4
Activities used for supervision 9.0 7.8 6.9 10.2 8.9 10.5 11.9 7.5
Self care 22.2 23.5 23.8 21.2 21.1 27.1 21.0 19.6
Activities
Any activityb 53.7 30.4 40.5 65.9 63.3 39.7 51.2 35.4
Sports 39.3 18.6 26.1 50.8 47.8 24.2 37.2 26.7
Religious activities 24.9 12.5 20.0 30.7 29.7 20.9 18.3 14.8
Artsd 21.5 9.7 12.5 28.5 25.8 13.3 25.5 13.2
Scouts 10.1 4.8 6.4 13.2 13.3 5.6 7.7 5.4
Academic activitiese 9.7 6.6 7.1 11.6 10.0 12.0 13.0 5.9
Community services 12.7 5.0 10.6 15.9 15.6 8.2 13.1 7.1
Clubs 8.7 3.7 4.6 11.8 11.0 4.9 8.9 4.1

standardized test scores and work habits and reduced problem behaviors. They also posted gains in teacher-reported social skills.

Children Younger Than Five (Preschoolers)

In 2005, 50.7% of children under the age of two and 73.7% of children aged three to six were in nonparental care at least some of the time. (See Table 3.6.) Among the youngest children, home-based care by a relative was most common (22%), followed by care in a center-based program (19.6%) and home-based care by a nonrelative (15.6%). Among older preschoolers, center-based programs were by far the most common; 57.1% of three- to six-year-olds were enrolled in these programs, whereas 22.7% were cared for in a home by a relative, and only 11.7% were cared for in a home by a nonrelative. These numbers reflect the fact that as their children grow from infancy to school age, working mothers often change child care arrangements to meet the needs of their children, their families, and their employers. Making child care arrangements for infants and toddlers is often more difficult than for older children, because fewer organized child care facilities admit infants and very young children, primarily due to the cost involved in hiring enough workers and adapting facilities to care adequately for babies. In addition, many parents prefer, if possible, to keep their infants in a home environment as long as possible. Also,

 
TABLE 3.5 Prevalence of self-care among grade school-aged children, by selected characteristics, 2005
[Numbers in thousands, except for percents]
Characteristics Child 5 to 8 years Child 9 to 11 years Child 12 to 14 years
Total In self-care Total In self-care Total In self-care
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
SOURCE: Table 4. Children in Self-Care, by Age of Child, Employment Status of Mother, and Selected Characteristics for Children Living with Mother: Spring 2005, in Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005, U.S. Census Bureau, February 2008, http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/child/ppl-2005.html (accessed November 2, 2008)
Total 14,889 284 1.9 12,097 1,196 9.9 12,584 4,135 32.9
Living with father only 527 16 3.0 522 60 11.5 683 254 37.2
Living with mother 14,362 269 1.9 11,575 1,135 9.8 11,901 3,881 32.6
Marital status of mother
Married 10,590 172 1.6 8,363 754 9.0 8,435 2,698 32.0
Widowed, separated, divorced 1,844 57 3.1 1,959 270 13.8 2,306 862 37.4
Never married 1,928 40 2.1 1,253 111 8.9 1,160 320 27.6
Race and Hispanic origin of mother
White alone 11,182 209 1.9 9,037 958 10.6 9,256 3,138 33.9
Non-Hispanic 8,624 161 1.9 7,052 829 11.8 7,398 2,694 36.4
Black alone 2,082 37 1.8 1,843 130 7.1 1,867 518 27.7
Asian alone 563 10 1.8 392 17 4.3 395 87 22.0
Hispanic (of any race) 2,774 53 1.9 2,100 132 6.3 2,004 482 24.1
Age of mother
1524 years 664 5 0.8 80 14 17.5 37 9 24.3
2534 years 6,238 105 1.7 3,528 320 9.1 2,145 587 27.4
35+ years 7,460 159 2.1 7,967 802 10.1 9,719 3,286 33.8
Education level of mother
Less than high school 1,662 18 1.1 1,369 70 5.1 1,314 254 19.3
High school graduate 3,766 97 2.6 2,995 263 8.8 3,350 1,058 31.6
Some college 5,200 83 1.6 4,442 525 11.8 4,605 1,516 32.9
Bachelor's degree or higher 3,734 70 1.9 2,769 278 10.0 2,632 1,053 40.0
Employment status of mother
Employed 9,285 208 2.2 7,931 889 11.2 8,459 3,149 37.2
Not employed
In school and not in labor force 363 9 2.5 274 19 6.9 197 48 24.4
Looking for work 783 4 0.5 553 69 12.5 458 112 24.5
Not in labor force 3,932 48 1.2 2,816 159 5.6 2,786 572 20.5
Family poverty level
Below poverty level 2,543 62 2.4 2,070 175 8.5 1,963 450 22.9
At or above poverty level 11,498 199 1.7 9,229 948 10.3 9,767 3,387 34.7
100199 percent of poverty level 3,493 59 1.7 2,629 190 7.2 2,606 671 25.7
200+ percent of poverty level 8,006 139 1.7 6,600 759 11.5 7,160 2,716 37.9
Missing 320 9 2.8 275 13 4.7 171 44 25.7

many mothers view center-based programs, which often have an educational focus, as most appropriate for older preschoolers.

FACTORS THAT AFFECT CHILD CARE

Preschool Child Care

RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIFFERENCES . In 2005 African-American mothers of preschoolers relied more heavily on relatives to provide child care than did other mothers. More than one out of four (27.7%) African-American preschoolers were cared for by relatives in that year, compared to 21% of non-Hispanic white preschoolers, 21.2% of Hispanic preschoolers, and 21.3% of Asian-American preschoolers. (See Table 3.6.) Non-Hispanic white preschoolers (54.8%), African-American preschoolers (54.1%), and Asian-American preschoolers (46%) were all more likely to be cared for by nonrelatives or in center-based programs than were Hispanic preschoolers (35.6%).

POVERTY MAKES A DIFFERENCE . In 2005, 85.3% of preschoolers whose mothers worked full time (35 hours or more each week) and 69.7% of preschoolers whose mothers worked part time were regularly in nonparental care. (See Table 3.6.) However, the type of care varied by the income levels of these families. A substantial number of children from low-income families are cared-for in unregulated home-based settings. Gina Adams, Kathryn Tout, and Martha Zaslow note in Early Care and Education for Children in Low-Income Families (January 12, 2006, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411482_early_care.pdf) that several observational studies have found unregulated home-based care of lower quality than regulated home-based settings in which low-income children participate. Studies question specific aspects of quality, such as prolonged exposure to television, missed opportunities for learning, and health and safety issues. In Snapshots of America's Families III: Children in Low-Income Families Are Less Likely to Be in Center-Based Child Care (January 27, 2004, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310923_snapshots3_no16.pdf),

 
TABLE 3.6 Percentage of preschool children by type of care arrangement and child and family characteristics, 1995, 2001, and 2005
Characteristic Parental care only Type of nonparental care arrangement
Total in nonparental careb Care in a homea Center-based programc
By a relative By a nonrelative
1995 2001 2005 1995 2001 2005 1995 2001 2005 1995 2001 2005 1995 2001 2005
Not available.
a Relative and nonrelative care can take place in either the child's own home or another home.
b Some children participate in more than one type of nonparental care arrangement. Thus, details do not sum to the total percentage of children in nonparental care.
c Center-based programs include day care centers, prekindergartens, nursery schools, Head Start programs, and other early childhood education programs.
d In 1995 and 2001, the 1977 OMB Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: white, black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. For data from 2005, the revised 1997 OMB standards were used. Persons could select one or more of five racial groups: white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Included in the total but not shown separately are American Indian or Alaska Native and respondents with two or more races. For continuity purposes, in 2005, respondents who reported the child being Asian or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander were combined. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
e Refers to adults' relationship to child and does not indicate marital status.
f Children without a mother in the home are excluded from estimates of mother's highest level of education and mother's employment status.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table FAM.3.A. Child Care: Percentage of Children Ages 06, Not Yet in Kindergarten by Type of Care Arrangement and Child and Family Characteristics, 1995, 2001, and 2005, in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2008, http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp (accessed November 2, 2008)
Total 39.9 38.8 39.2 60.1 61.2 60.8 21.1 23.1 22.3 18.0 16.3 13.9 30.5 33.4 36.1
Age
Ages 02 50.5 48.0 49.3 49.5 52.0 50.7 22.5 23.3 22.0 18.9 18.0 15.6 11.9 16.5 19.6
Ages 36, not yet in kindergarten 25.9 26.3 23.6 74.1 73.7 73.7 19.4 22.7 22.7 16.9 14.0 11.7 55.0 56.3 57.1
Race and Hispanic origind
White, non-Hispanic 38.3 38.4 37.2 61.7 61.6 62.8 17.9 20.3 21.0 21.3 18.7 17.0 32.9 35.1 37.8
Black, non-Hispanic 34.2 26.1 30.1 65.8 73.9 69.9 31.4 34.6 27.7 11.6 12.9 10.2 33.0 40.2 43.9
Asian 41.8 43.2 43.5 58.2 56.8 56.5 26.6 22.9 21.3 9.1 8.7 9.0 29.6 34.1 37.0
Hispanic 53.7 52.0 50.5 46.3 48.0 49.5 23.4 22.9 21.2 11.8 11.8 10.4 17.0 20.7 25.2
Poverty status
Below 100% poverty 50.4 45.3 49.2 49.6 54.7 50.8 23.2 27.4 23.3 10.0 10.6 8.0 23.5 26.9 28.3
100199% poverty 47.7 46.3 47.2 52.3 53.7 52.8 23.0 22.5 23.5 13.3 12.6 9.3 23.7 27.8 29.4
200% poverty and above 29.9 32.7 31.6 70.1 67.3 68.4 19.1 21.4 21.4 25.1 20.5 18.3 37.9 38.7 42.2
Family type
Two parentse 42.0 42.7 42.9 58.0 57.3 57.1 17.2 19.0 18.8 19.2 16.2 14.1 29.9 32.3 34.4
Two parents, married 42.2 41.8 57.8 58.2 18.4 18.6 16.6 14.2 33.1 35.8
Two parents, unmarried 47.3 53.0 52.7 47.0 24.4 20.4 12.4 13.0 25.0 21.7
One parent 33.0 26.5 24.9 67.0 73.5 75.1 33.3 36.6 36.0 15.2 17.3 13.4 32.4 36.1 42.3
No parents 45.3 17.9 33.1 54.8 82.1 66.9 17.4 38.5 28.3 10.8 9.2 10.0 30.5 47.9 43.6
Mother's highest level of educationf
Less than high school 61.7 55.5 63.7 38.3 44.5 36.3 19.8 21.7 16.1 6.6 8.3 5.5 15.7 20.8 18.9
High school diploma or equivalent 43.7 42.3 44.4 56.3 57.7 55.6 23.4 26.2 24.1 15.0 13.3 9.9 26.0 28.1 30.7
Some college, including vocational/technical/associate's degree 34.1 36.7 36.5 65.9 63.3 63.5 23.6 25.3 25.8 19.3 15.4 14.5 33.5 35.3 35.2
Bachelor's degree or higher 27.7 31.3 30.5 72.3 68.7 69.5 15.2 16.9 19.1 28.4 23.6 19.2 42.7 42.1 45.8
Mother's employment statusf
35 hours or more per week 11.9 14.8 14.7 88.1 85.2 85.3 33.4 34.0 31.8 31.7 26.2 23.3 38.9 42.1 47.6
Less than 35 hours per week 24.9 29.0 30.3 75.1 71.0 69.7 30.1 31.6 30.5 25.6 19.9 18.0 35.0 35.6 37.8
Looking for work 57.6 57.3 53.3 42.4 42.7 46.7 16.3 16.7 20.7 3.7 9.6 7.5 24.7 24.5 23.3
Not in the labor force 67.7 67.6 66.1 32.3 32.4 33.9 7.2 7.0 7.8 5.5 4.8 3.6 22.0 24.1 25.8

Jeffrey Capizzano and Gina Adams find that preschoolers from lower-income families (families with an income less than 200% of the poverty line) were less likely to be in center-based care (24.9%) than children from higher-income families (31.2%). The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics indicates in America's Children in Brief that data support this conclusion. In 2005, 42.2% of preschoolers from families whose incomes were above 200% of the poverty line were in center-based care, compared to 29.4% of children from families with incomes 100% to 199% of the poverty line and 28.3% of children from families with incomes below the poverty line. (See Table 3.6.)

Capizzano and Adams suggest the lower percentage of low-income children in center care reflects the lower cost of home-based care. At the same time, they argue there is evidence that quality, center-based care plays a big role in helping preschoolers make a successful transition to school and that low-income children are in large part missing this opportunity. In Key Facts: Essential Information about Child Care, Early Education, and School-Age Care (2003), Karen Blank, Karen Schulman, and Danielle Ewan also stress the

importance of providing low-income families with child care assistance to help their children succeed.

FORMAL CHILD CARE FACILITIES

Even though no comprehensive data exist on the types or quality of child care facilities in the United States, the National Association for Regulatory Administration estimates in The 2005 Child Care Licensing Study Executive Summary (2006, http://www.nara.affiniscape.com/associations/4734/files/Executive%20Summary.pdf) that in 2005 there were 335,520 licensed child care facilities in the United States, including 105,444 licensed child care centers and 213,966 licensed family child care homes. More than nine million children are taken care of in these licensed facilities, and over 70% of these children are in center-based programs. Many more unlicensed child care facilities exist, but because they are not regulated, no reliable statistics are collected.

In 2005, 50.7% of all children aged two and under and 73.7% of all children aged three to six spent time in non-parental care each week. (See Table 3.6.) Their care providers are major influences in their lives. Many working parents discover that quality and affordable care is very difficult to find. In some communities, child care is hard to find at any cost. Shortages of child care for infants, sick children, children with special needs, and for school children before and after school pose problems for many parents.

Regulations and Quality of Care

Federal assistance to low-income families to pay for child care eroded in the late twentieth century at the same time that the government imposed requirements that more low-income parents work. The 1996 welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, eliminated the guarantee that families on welfare would receive subsidized child care and replaced it with the Child Care and Development Block Grant to states. Even though the legislation gave states wide discretion in the use of these funds, it also imposed penalties if states failed to meet criteria for getting low-income parents into the workforce.

This legislation pushed the issue of regulation of child care facilities to the forefront. In 1989 the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) initiated the Study of Early Child Care. This comprehensive ongoing longitudinal study was designed to answer many questions about the relationship between child care experiences and children's developmental outcomes. The 1999 phase of the study examined whether the amount of time children spent in child care affected their interactions with their mothers. The results showed that the number of hours infants and toddlers spent in child care was modestly linked to the sensitivity of the mother to her child, as well as to the engagement of the child with the mother in play activities. Children in consistent quality day care showed less problem behavior, whereas those who switched day care arrangements showed more problem behaviors. Children in quality care centers had higher cognitive and language development than those in lower-quality centers.

The second phase of the study, The NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development: Findings for Children up to Age 4 1/2 Years (January 2006, http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/seccyd_051206.pdf), found that the quality of child care had an impact on children's social and intellectual development. The study defined a better quality of care as care that met ideal adult-to-child ratios, maintained ideal group sizes, and had well-trained child care providers. It also focused on the quality of children's actual day-to-day experiences in child care, observing children's social interactions and their activities with toys.

The study found that children who were in higher-quality child care had better cognitive function and language development in the first three years of life, as well as greater school readiness by age four and a half. Children in higher-quality care were also more sensitive to other children, more cooperative, and less aggressive and disobedient than were children in lower-quality care. Lastly, the study found that children who were cared for in child care centers rather than in home-based care had better cognitive and language development, but also showed somewhat more behavior problems both in the child care setting and once they began kindergarten.

Child Care during Nonstandard Hours

Many parents choose to have one parent work non-standard hours to allow both parents to provide child care at different times of the day. According to the BLS, in the press release Workers on Flexiblke and Shift Schedules in May 2004 (July 1, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/flex.pdf), in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 27 million workers, or 27.5% of all fulltime wage and salary workers, worked flexible hours and were able to vary their work hours to fit their schedules. That number was more than twice as many workers as in May 1985, but down from a high of 28.6% in May 2001. Flexible schedules were most common among management (44.7%) and professionals (31.5%), and were more common among non-Hispanic white (28.7%) and Asian-American (27.4%) workers than among African-American (19.7%) and Hispanic workers (18.4%). By contrast, the percentage of those who worked an evening or overnight shift had fallen from 18% in 1991 to 14.8% in 2004. When asked why they worked a non-daytime schedule, 8.2% of shift workers answered they did so for better family or child care arrangements.

THE COST OF CHILD CARE

In 2008 the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) published Parents and the High Price of Child Care: Update 2008 (http://issuu.com/naccrra/docs/price_report_2008), which surveyed child care costs across the country. The survey shows that the average yearly cost for child care in a child care center for a four-year-old ranged from $4,475 in Arkansas to $10,787 in Massachusetts. For an infant, annual costs jumped to $5,231 in Alabama and $14,591 in Massachusetts. Child care in urban care centers was so expensive that it could cost more than public college tuition.

Low-Income Families

NACCRRA notes in Parents and the High Price of Child Care that in 2008 a low-income family with two parents working full time, 52 weeks per year, at $5.85 per hour (the minimum wage after July 2007), earned $24,336 per year before taxes. These families spent an exorbitant proportion of their income on child care. For example, in New York, where the average annual cost of infant care was $13,437, the median income for single-parent families was $23,487. This family would spend 57.2% of its annual income on preschool care. Even in Nevada, where the cost of infant care averaged a relatively low $8,391, a single-parent family earning the median income of $26,170 would spend 32.1% of its annual income on child care.

In Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005 Detailed Tables (February 28, 2008, http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/child/ppl-2005.html), the Census Bureau estimates that in 2005 the average married-couple family with a working mother with a preschool child spent 7.8% of its income on child care, whereas single mothers spent 13.5% of their family income on child care. Families in poverty in which the mother was employed paid an average of $82 per week in child care costs, 26.6% of the family income, compared to families not in poverty, who paid, on average, $132 per week, or 8.3% of the family income. Many poor and low-income families were forced to enroll their children in low-cost, and often poor-quality, child care centers. As a result, these children spent much of their day in unstimulating and possibly unsafe environments.

Government Assistance with Child Care

BLOCK GRANTS . In some cases, low-income and poor parents can receive government assistance in paying for child care. Recognizing that child care assistance helps contribute to a productive workforce, every state has a child care assistance program that subsidizes some child care using federal block grant money and state funds for those on welfare and for low-income working families. In some cases, parents receive a voucher that they can use to pay for a portion of child care costs; in other states, payments are made directly to the child care provider of the parents' choice. However, according to NACCRRA, in Breaking the Piggy Bank: Parents and the High Price of Child Care (February 2006, http://www.naccrra.org/docs/policy/Breaking%20the%20Piggy%20Bank_FINAL(printer).pdf), in 2005 17 states had waiting lists for child care assistance and Tennessee was no longer accepting applications even for its waiting list. Also, the income cut-off to even be eligible for assistance was extremely low. In other words, child care assistance is available to only a small percentage of those families who need it.

HEAD START . Perhaps the best-known and most successful government-funded child care program is Head Start, a federal program begun in 1965 under the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The free program provides early education, health care, social services, and free meals to preschool children in families whose incomes are below the poverty line or who receive public assistance. In Head Start Program Fact Sheet (February 2008, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/about/fy2008.html), the ACF states that Head Start operates in every state, and in fiscal year 2007 it served 908,412 children. The Children's Defense Fund reports in Head Start Basics: 2005 (April 2005, http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/DocServer/headstartbasics2005.pdf?docID=616) that the program has been shown to provide many benefits, including a greater likelihood that children will do well in school and graduate from high school.

TAX CREDITS . The Federal Dependent Care Tax Credit helps families by allowing them to claim an income tax credit for part of their child care expenses for children under the age of 13 that enabled parents to work outside the home. The credit is on a sliding scale, ranging from 20% to 35% of qualified expenses; therefore, lower-income families receive slightly larger credits. According to the Internal Revenue Service, in Child and Dependent Care Credit (2008, http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch32.html#d0e71607), in 2008 parents could claim up to $3,000 in qualified expenses for one child or $6,000 for two or more children.

FAMILY LEAVE. In 1993 Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), requiring employers with 50 or more employees to give unpaid time off12 weeks in any 12-month periodto employees to care for newborn or newly adopted children, sick family members, or for personal illness. The employee must be returned to the same positionor one equivalent in pay, benefits, and other terms of employmentand must receive uninterrupted health benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that before this legislation, fewer than a quarter of all workers received family leave benefits and that most of those who did worked in establishments of more than 100 employees.

Jane Waldfogel states in Family and Medical Leave: Evidence from the 2000 Surveys (Monthly Labor Review,

September 2001) that in 2000, 17.9% of FMLA leave takers took their leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed foster child; 9.8% used it to care for a sick child; and 7.8% used it as maternity or disability time. Of all employees covered by the FMLA with children 18 months and younger, 45.1% of men and 75.8% of women had taken an FMLA leave in the previous 18 months.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caring for Children." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caring for Children." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/caring-children

"Caring for Children." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/caring-children

Caring for Children

Chapter 3
Caring for Children

SOCIETAL CHANGES AND WORKING MOTHERS

In the early twenty-first century, women with young children were much more likely to work outside the home than they had been three decades previously. Jane Lawler Dye reports in Fertility of American Women: June 2004 (December 2005, http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/ p20-555.pdf) that in 1976, 31% of women aged fifteen to forty-four with a child under twelve months old worked. By 2004 that percentage had increased to 55%, down from a high of 59% in 1998. Table 3.1 shows that in 2005, 62.8% of mothers with children under age six and 76.5% of mothers with school-age children were in the labor force.

Legislation passed in the late 1970s that made it more possible for women to return to work after the birth of a child. In 1976 tax code changes allowed families a tax credit on child care costs, making it more financially feasible for women to return to work. In 1978 the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, making it illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring, firing, promoting, or establishing pay levels based on pregnancy or childbirth. And in 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed, requiring employers to give eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for child-bearing or family care each year.

Societal changes also contributed to the greater number of women with young children participating in the labor force. In Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns, 1961–1995 (November 2001, http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p70-79.pdf), Kristin Smith, Barbara Downs, and Martin O'Connell review the changing demographic profile of first-time mothers between the 1960s and 1990s to explain, in part, this increase. The researchers emphasize that during this period the incidence of first-time motherhood at age thirty or older tripled and that first-time mothers in the 1990s tended to be better educated than their 1960 counterparts. These older, well-educated mothers often viewed their jobs as long-term careers and believed time lost could adversely affect their ability to hold a position and earn promotions and could decrease contributions to retirement funds. This trend continued into the twenty-first century. Laura B. Shres-tha, in The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States (May 5, 2006, http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32701.pdf), notes that the mean age of first-time mothers reached 25.2 years in 2003, up from 21.4 years in 1970 and an all-time high for American women.

Furthermore, the increasing number of single mothers meant that more women had to work to support their families. In 1970, 3.4 million women maintained single-parent households; by 2005 that number had tripled, to 10.4 million. (See Table 1.3 in Chapter 1.) Changes in government programs that provided assistance to poor families also resulted in increasing numbers of single mothers entering the workforce. In 1996 the federal government placed a two-year time limit on receiving public assistance benefits while not working, requiring poor parents to work even if they had to place young children in day care. In 2005, 63.4% of single mothers with children under three years old were in the labor force, with a 15% unemployment rate. (See Table 3.2.)

Married women have also entered the workforce in larger numbers. A decline in men's real wages plus a rising cost of living has led some two-parent families to decide to maintain two incomes to meet financial obligations and pay for their children's future college expenses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in The 2007 Statistical Abstract (December 22, 2006, http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/income_expenditures_wealth/), the median income in 2003 for married couples in which both husbands and wives worked was $77,899, which was significantly higher than the $51,303 median income for married-couple families in which the wife was not in the paid labor force. Table 3.1 shows that 68.2% of married women with children under the age of eighteen were in the labor force in 2005, and Table 3.2 shows that 56.7% of married women with children under age three were in the labor force in that year. Many families have come to depend on women's economic contributions to the household.

TABLE 3.1
Employment status of population by sex, marital status, and presence and age of own children under 18, 2005
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2005
Total Men Women
With own children under 18 years
Civilian noninstitutional population64,48228,06536,417
     Civilian labor force52,05626,39925,657
          Participation rate80.794.170.5
     Employed49,88225,58724,294
               Employment-population ratio77.491.266.7
          Full-time workersa42,85224,71318,139
          Part-time workersb7,0298756,155
     Unemployed2,1748111,363
               Unemployment rate4.23.15.3
Married, spouse present
Civilian noninstitutional population51,51925,57825,942
     Civilian labor force41,90524,21517,690
          Participation rate81.394.768.2
     Employed40,61423,55617,058
               Employment-population ratio78.892.165.8
          Full-time workersa35,08622,80812,278
          Part-time workersb5,5287484,780
     Unemployed1,291659632
               Unemployment rate3.12.73.6
Other marital statusc
Civilian noninstitutional population12,9632,48710,475
     Civilian labor force10,1512,1847,967
          Participation rate78.387.876.1
     Employed9,2682,0327,236
               Employment-population ratio71.581.769.1
          Full-time workersa7,7661,9055,861
          Part-time workersb1,5021271,375
     Unemployed883152731
               Unemployment rate8.77.09.2
With own children 6-17 years, none younger
Civilian noninstitutional population35,93715,59020,348
     Civilian labor force30,06814,49615,572
          Participation rate83.793.076.5
     Employed28,95314,06614,887
               Employment-population ratio80.690.273.2
          Full-time workersa25,07413,60611,468
          Part-time workersb3,8804603,419
     Unemployed1,115430684
               Unemployment rate3.73.04.4
With own children under 6 years
Civilian noninstitutional population28,54512,47516,070
     Civilian labor force21,98811,90310,085
          Participation rate77.095.462.8
     Employed20,92811,5219,407
               Employment-population ratio73.392.458.5
          Full-time workersa17,77811,1076,671
          Part-time workersb3,1504142,736
     Unemployed1,060381678
               Unemployment rate4.83.26.7

WHO CARES FOR AMERICA'S CHILDREN?

School-Age Children

Married parents who both work and single parents who work need reliable child care. The Federal Inter-agency Forum on Child and Family Statistics reports in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2006 (http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/pop.asp) that about half of children in kindergarten through eighth grade were cared for by someone other than their parents in 2005. (See Figure 3.1.) Of those who were cared for by someone other than parents, younger children were more likely to receive home- or center-based care for before- or after-school hours; children in grades four and up were less likely to receive these types of care and more likely to care for themselves. Only 2.6% of children in kindergarten through third grade cared for themselves regularly, whereas 22.2% of older children did. (See Table 3.3.)

TABLE 3.1
Employment status of population by sex, marital status, and presence and age of own children under 18, 2005 [continued]
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2005
Total Men Women
aUsually work 35 hours or more a week at all jobs.
bUsually work less than 35 hours a week at all jobs.
cIncludes never-married, divorced, separated, and widowed persons.
Source: Adapted from "Table 5. Employment Status of the Population by Sex, Marital Status, and Presence and Age of Own Children under 18, 2004–05 Annual Averages," in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2005, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 27, 2006, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed February 20, 2007)
With no own children under 18 years
Civilian noninstitutional population159,75179,23780,514
     Civilian labor force95,54551,91443,631
          Participation rate59.865.554.2
     Employed90,17148,70941,462
               Employment-population ratio56.461.551.5
          Full-time workersa72,51541,49631,019
          Part-time workersb17,6577,21310,444
     Unemployed5,3743,2052,169
               Unemployment rate5.66.25.0

SELF-CARE—LATCHKEY KIDS

The term latchkey kids is used to describe children left alone or unsupervised either during the day or before or after school. These are children five to fourteen years of age whose parents report "child cares for self" as either the primary or secondary child care arrangement. In 2002 approximately 6.1 million grade school-aged children cared for themselves regularly without adult supervision. (See Table 3.4.) Self-care was higher among children who lived with their father without their mother present (18.3%) than it was among children who lived with their mother, with or without their father present (14.8%). Most of these children were age twelve or older, but 1.9 million children eleven years of age and younger regularly took care of themselves. In Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Winter 2002 (October 2005, http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-101.pdf), Julia Overturf Johnson finds that the percentage of children

TABLE 3.2
Employment status of mothers with own children under three years old, by single year of age of youngest child and marital status, 2005
[Numbers in thousands]
Civilian non-institutional population Civilian labor force
Total Percent of population Employed Unemployed
Total Percent of population Full-time workersa Part-time workersb Number Percent of labor force
aUsually work 35 hours or more a week at all jobs.
bUsually work less than 35 hours a week at all jobs.
cIncludes never-married, divorced, separated, and widowed persons.
Source: Adapted from "Table 6. Employment Status of Mothers with Own Children under 3 Years Old by Single Year of Age of Youngest Child and Marital Status, 2004–05 Annual Averages," in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2005, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 27, 2006, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed February 20, 2007)
2005
Total mothers
With own children under 3 years old9,3655,47058.45,07754.23,5011,5763937.2
    2 years2,8451,77362.31,65458.11,1624921196.7
    1 year3,2871,95859.61,82355.51,2475761356.9
    Under 1 year3,2331,74053.81,60049.51,0925081408.0
Married, spouse present
With own children under 3 years old6,9513,93956.73,77654.32,5881,1881644.2
    2 years2,1181,26859.91,21457.3840374554.3
    1 year2,4351,38957.01,33754.9901436523.7
    Under 1 year2,3981,28253.51,22551.1847378584.5
Other marital statusc
With own children under 3 years old2,4141,53163.41,30153.991338823015.0
    2 years72650469.544060.63221186412.7
    1 year85256966.848657.03461398314.6
    Under 1 year83645754.737544.92451308218.0
TABLE 3.3
Percentage of children in kindergarten through eighth grade, by weekday care and before- and after-school activities, by grade level, poverty, race, and Hispanic origin, 2005
Grade level, care arrangement, and activity Total Poverty status Race and Hispanic origina
Below 100% poverty 100-199% poverty 200% poverty and above White, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Asian Hispanic
aThe 1997 Office of Management and Budget Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity were used, allowing persons to select one or more of five racial groups: white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Included in the total, but not shown separately are American Indian/Alaskan Native and respondents with two or more races. Respondents who reported the child being Asian or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander were combined. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
bChildren may have multiple nonparental child care arrangements, as well as be involved in more than one activity; thus, the total of the four kinds of nonparental arrangements may not sum to the category "nonparental care"; likewise, the seven activities listed may not sum to the category "any activity." Activities include organized programs a child participates in outside of school hours that are not part of a before- or after-school program.
cHome-based care includes care that takes place in a relative's or nonrelative's private home.
dArts include activities such as music, dance, and painting.
eAcademic activities include activities such as tutoring or math lab.
Source: "Table POP8C. Child Care and Activities: Percentage of Children in Kindergarten through 8th Grade by Weekday Care and Before- and After-School Activities by Grade Level, Poverty Status, Race, and Hispanic Origin, 2005," in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2006, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2006, http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/pop8c.asp (accessed February 20, 2007)
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Care arrangements
     Parental care only53.152.054.553.058.334.649.955.3
    Nonparental careb46.948.045.547.041.765.450.144.7
        Home-based carec23.625.224.522.622.032.226.520.4
        Center-based care24.425.021.625.220.539.821.423.4
        Activities used for supervision5.23.15.36.04.85.813.43.2
         Self care2.65.13.61.31.64.13.64.2
Activities
    Any activityb46.224.334.059.556.230.445.830.4
        Sports31.812.119.544.340.216.829.320.8
        Religious activities19.413.514.823.424.014.611.511.9
        Artsd17.26.010.824.121.88.327.18.2
        Scouts12.95.38.017.818.24.911.13.8
        Academic activitiese4.73.83.85.35.14.47.43.5
        Community services4.21.93.05.55.33.32.61.7
        Clubs3.21.32.44.34.31.14.21.8
4th through 8th grade
Care arrangements
    Parental care only46.946.745.247.651.234.544.245.0
    Nonparental careb53.153.354.852.448.865.555.855.0
        Home-based carec18.115.020.018.416.424.117.518.6
        Center-based care19.021.321.317.414.228.921.925.4
        Activities used for supervision9.07.86.910.28.910.511.97.5
        Self care22.223.523.821.221.127.121.019.6
Activities
    Any activityb53.730.440.565.963.339.751.235.4
        Sports39.318.626.150.847.824.237.226.7
        Religious activities24.912.520.030.729.720.918.314.8
        Artsd21.59.712.528.525.813.325.513.2
        Community services12.75.010.615.915.68.213.17.1
         Scouts10.14.86.413.213.35.67.75.4
        Academic activitiese9.76.67.111.610.012.013.05.9
        Clubs8.73.74.611.811.04.98.94.1

in self-care held steady between 1997 and 2002 in both families with married parents and in families living with an unemployed single parent; however, the percentage of children of a single, employed parent in self-care actually declined from 24% in 1997 to 18% in 2002.

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTERS

More than half of all families use after-school programs, and in many families parents rely on after-school care to provide a safe and nurturing place for their children while they are working. In response to concerns about the availability of quality after-school programs, the U.S. Department of Education initiated the Twenty-First-Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC), authorized under Title X, Part I, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and reauthorized under Title IV, Part B, of the No Child Left Behind Act. This initiative gives grants to low-performance middle and elementary schools in rural and urban areas to provide after-school opportunities for their students, both educational and recreational. In 1997 the 21st CCLC had a budget of only $1 million; by fiscal year 2006 the program's budget was $981 million. According to the Department of Education, in "21st CCLC Profile and Performance Information Collection System" (2007, http://ppics.learningpt.org/ppics/publicGrantSearch.asp), by 2007 the 21st CCLC supported after-school programs in 3,425 communities across the country.

However, Duncan Chaplin and Michael J. Puma, in What "Extras" Do We Get with Extracurriculars? Technical Research Consideration (September 30, 2003, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410862_what_extras.pdf), offer a cautionary note about claims that these programs may give disadvantaged students an academic boost. The researchers find that extracurricular activities included in after-school programs that do not specifically target academic outcomes (e.g., arts, music, drama, and language classes) had no affect on academic achievement. Chaplin and Puma suggest more rigorous evaluation of after-school programs that target disadvantaged youth be conducted before further money is spent on these programs, as that money might be spent on potentially more effective educational programs for disadvantaged youth. The MDRC states in "Evaluation of Academic Instruction in After-School Programs" (2007, http://www.mdrc.org/project_30_66.html) that the Department of Education is currently funding a study to evaluate whether children who receive academic instruction in these programs actually enjoy a better academic outcome than do other students.

Children Younger Than Five (Preschoolers)

In 2004 mothers with children under twelve months old were much less likely to be employed full time (thirty-five hours or more each week) than were mothers with children older than twelve months. Roughly a third of mothers whose youngest child was an infant (35%) were employed full time, compared with 39% of mothers whose youngest child was a one- to two-year-old, 47% of mothers whose youngest child was a three- to five-year-old, and 55% of mothers with only school-aged children. (See Figure 3.2.) Almost half the mothers with an infant were not in the labor force at all (45%), whereas only a quarter of mothers whose youngest child was aged six to eleven (25%) were not in the labor force. Unemployment and part-time employment were relatively equal across all groups of mothers.

In 2005, 50.7% of children under age two and 73.7% of children aged three to six were in nonparental care at least some of the time. (See Table 3.5.) Among the youngest children, home-based care by a relative was most common (22%), followed by care in a center-based program (19.6%), and home-based care by a nonrelative (15.6%). Among older preschoolers, center-based programs were by far the most common; 57.1% of three-to six-year-olds were enrolled in these programs, whereas 22.7% were cared for in a home by a relative and only 11.7% were cared for in a home by a nonrelative. These numbers reflect the fact that as their children grow from infancy to school age, working mothers often change child care arrangements to meet the needs of their children, their families, and their employers. Making child care arrangements for infants and toddlers is often more difficult than for older children, because fewer organized child care facilities admit infants and young children, primarily because of the cost involved in hiring enough workers and adapting facilities to care adequately for babies. In addition, many parents prefer, if possible, to keep their infants in a home environment as long as possible. And many mothers view center-based programs, which often have an educational focus, as most appropriate for older preschoolers.

FACTORS THAT AFFECT CHILD CARE

Preschool Child Care

RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIFFERENCES

In 2005 African-American mothers of preschoolers relied more heavily on relatives to provide child care than did other mothers. More than one out of four (27.7%) African-American preschoolers were cared for by relatives in that year, compared with 21% of white, non-Hispanic preschoolers, 21.2% of Hispanic preschoolers, and 21.3% of Asian preschoolers. (See Table 3.5.) Non-Hispanic white preschoolers (54.8%), African-American preschoolers (54.1%), and Asian preschoolers (46%) were all more likely to be cared for by nonrelatives or in center-based programs than were Hispanic preschoolers (35.6%).

TABLE 3.4
Prevalence of self-care among grade school-aged children, by selected characteristics for those living with mother, 2002
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic Age of child
Total 5 to 11 years 12 to 14 years
aMother not present in the household, so father is the designated parent.
bIncludes married spouse present and spouse absent (excluding separated).
cExcludes those with missing income data.
dIncludes mothers with wage and salary jobs and employment arrangements other than self-employed.
eThose who work 35 or more hours per week are considered working full-time.
Source: Julia Overturf Johnson, "Table 5. Prevalence of Self-Care Among Grade School-Aged Children, by Selected Characteristics for Those Living with Mother: Winter 2002," in Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Winter 2002, U.S. Census Bureau, October 2005, http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-101.pdf (accessed February 20, 2007)
    Total children 5 to 14 years 40,624 28,276 12,348
Living with fathera 1,6761,084592
Number in self-care307106201
Percent in self-care18.39.834.0
Living with mother 38,94827,19211,756
Number in self-care5,7661,8623,904
Percent in self-care14.87.033.3
Race and Hispanic origin of mother
White15.46.934.9
    Non-Hispanic17.58.038.7
Black11.96.424.7
Asian and Pacific Islander10.94.128.1
Hispanic (any race)7.93.519.8
Marital status of mother
Marriedb14.76.832.7
Separated, divorced, widowed18.17.937.5
Never married10.05.427.3
Poverty status of familyc
Below poverty level9.44.721.7
At or above poverty level16.37.436.2
    100 to 199 percent of poverty level11.65.426.4
    200 percent of poverty level or higher18.28.339.9
Employment schedule of mother
Not employed7.13.717.2
Employed (all)18.68.539.3
    Self-employed15.47.733.0
    Not self-employedd18.98.639.8
        Full-timee20.19.141.5
        Part-time16.17.535.6
        Worked day shift19.99.340.9
        Worked non-day shift16.67.137.2
Enrichment activities of child
Participated in an activity24.912.350.1
Did not participate in an activity12.95.829.5
Average hours per week in self-care among children in self-care 6.35.26.9
Number of hours in self-care per week (Percent distribution)
    Total 100.0 100.0 100.0
    Less than 2 hours13.019.69.9
    2 to 4 hours33.339.430.4
    5 to 9 hours31.325.734.0
    10 or more hours22.415.425.7

POVERTY MAKES A DIFFERENCE

In 2005, 85.3% of preschoolers whose mothers worked full time and 69.7% of preschoolers whose mothers worked part time were regularly in nonparental care. (See Table 3.5.) However, the type of care varied by the income levels of those families. Jeffrey Capizzano and Gina Adams find in "Snapshots of America's Families III: Children in Low-Income Families Are Less Likely to Be in Center-Based Child Care" (November 2003, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310923_snapshots3_no16.pdf) that preschoolers from lower-income families (families with an income less than 200% of the poverty line) were less likely to be in center-based care (24.9%) than children from higher-income families (31.2%). Data from America's Children in Brief supports this conclusion. In 2005, 42.2% of preschoolers from families whose incomes were above 200% of the poverty line were in center-based care, compared with 29.4% of children from families with incomes 100% to 199% of the poverty line and 28.3% of children from families with incomes below the poverty line. (See Table 3.5.)

Capizzano and Adams suggest the lower percentage of low-income children in center care reflects the lower cost of home-based care. At the same time, they argue that there is evidence that quality, center-based care plays a big role in helping preschoolers make a successful transition to school and that low-income children are in large part missing this opportunity. In Key Facts: Essential Information about Child Care, Early Education and School-Age Care (2003), the Children's Defense Fund also stresses the importance of providing low-income families with child care assistance to help their children succeed.

FORMAL CHILD CARE FACILITIES

Even though no comprehensive data exist on the types or quality of child care facilities in the United States, the National Association for Regulatory Administration, in The 2005 Child Care Licensing Study Executive Summary (2006, http://www.nara.affiniscape.com/associations/4734/files/Executive%20Summary.pdf), estimates that in 2005 there were 335,520 licensed child care facilities in the United States, including 105,444 licensed child care centers and 213,966 licensed family child care homes. More than nine million children are taken care of in these licensed facilities, and over 70% of these children are in center-based programs. Many more unlicensed child care facilities exist, but because they are not regulated, no reliable statistics are collected.

In 2005 half of all children aged two and under and almost three-quarters of all children aged three to six spent time in nonparental care each week. (See Table 3.5.) Their care providers are major influences in their lives. Many working parents discover that quality and affordable care is difficult to find. In some communities child care is hard to find at any cost. Shortages of child care for infants, sick children, children with special needs, and for school children before and after school pose problems for many parents.

TABLE 3.5
Percentage of preschool children by type of care arrangement and child and family characteristics, 2005
Parental care only Type of nonparental care arrangement
Total in nonparental careb Care in a homea Center-based programc
By a relative By a nonrelative
—=Not available.
aRelative and nonrelative care can take place in either the child's own home or another home.
bSome children participate in more than one type of nonparental care arrangement. Thus, details do not sum to the total percentage of children in nonparental care.
cCenter-based programs include day care centers, prekindergartens, nursery schools, head start programs, and other early childhood education programs.
dIn 1995 and 2001, the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: white, black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. For data from 2005, the revised 1997 OMB standards were used. Persons could select one or more of five racial groups: white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Included in the total, but not shown separately are American Indian/Alaskan Native and respondents with two or more races. For continuity purposes, in 2005 respondents who reported the child being Asian or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander were combined. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
eRefers to adults' relationship to child and does not indicate marital status.
fChildren without a mother in the home are excluded from estimates of mother's highest level of education and mother's employment status.
Notes: Some children participate in more than one type of arrangement, so the sum of all arrangement types exceeds the total percentage in nonparental care. Center-based programs include day care centers, prekindergartens, nursery schools, head start programs, and other early childhood education programs. Relative and nonrelative care can take place in either the child's own home or another home.
Source: Adapted from "Table POP8A. Child Care: Percentage of Children Ages 0-6, Not Yet in Kindergarten by Type of Care Arrangement and Child and Family Characteristics, 1995, 2001, and 2005," in America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2006, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2006, http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/pop8a.asp (accessed February 20, 2007)
Characteristic 2005 2005 2005 2005 2005
Total 39.2 60.8 22.3 13.9 36.1
Age
Ages 0-249.350.722.015.619.6
Ages 3-6, not yet in kindergarten23.673.722.711.757.1
Race and Hispanic origind
White, non-Hispanic37.262.821.017.037.8
Black, non-Hispanic30.169.927.710.243.9
Asian43.556.521.39.037.0
Hispanic50.549.521.210.425.2
Poverty status
Below 100% poverty49.250.823.38.028.3
100-199% poverty47.252.823.59.329.4
200% poverty and above31.668.421.418.342.2
Family type
Two parentse42.957.118.814.134.4
    Two parents, married41.858.218.614.235.8
    Two parents, unmarried53.047.020.413.021.7
One parent24.975.136.013.442.3
No parents33.166.928.310.043.6
Mother's highest level of educationf
Less than high school63.736.316.15.518.9
High school diploma or equivalent44.455.624.19.930.7
Some college, including vocational/technical/associate's degree36.563.525.814.535.2
Bachelor's degree or higher30.569.519.119.245.8
Mother's employment statusf
35 hours or more per week14.785.331.823.347.6
Less than 35 hours per week30.369.730.518.037.8
Looking for work53.346.720.77.523.3
Not in the labor force66.133.97.83.625.8

Regulations and Quality of Care

Federal assistance to low-income families to pay for child care eroded in the late twentieth century at the same time that the government imposed requirements that more low-income parents work. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 eliminated the guarantee that families on welfare would receive subsidized child care and replaced it with the Child Care and Development Block Grant to states. Even though the legislation gave states wide discretion in the use of these funds, it also imposed penalties if states failed to meet criteria for getting low-income parents into the workforce.

TABLE 3.6
Full-time shift workers by reason for working a non-daytime schedule, May 2004
[Percent distribution]
Reason for working a non-daytime schedule Total shift workersa Evening shift Night shift Rotating shift Split shift Employer-arranged irregular schedule Other shift
aIncludes persons who worked a non-daytime schedule, but did not report the shift worked.
bIncludes persons who worked a non-daytime schedule, but did not report a reason.
Note: Data relate to the sole or principal job of full-time wage and salary workers and exclude all self-employed persons, regardless of whether or not their businesses were incorporated.
Source: "Table 6. Full-Time Wage and Salary Shift Workers by Reason for Working a Non-Daytime Schedule, May 2004," in Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules in May 2004, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 1, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/flex.pdf (accessed February 20, 2007)
Numberb (thousands)14,8054,7363,2212,5264973,064715
Percentb100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
Better arrangements for family or child care8.211.015.91.65.82.64.3
Better pay6.87.110.16.56.03.56.1
Allows time for school3.26.02.51.43.71.51.8
Could not get any other job8.113.98.25.53.83.23.2
Nature of the job54.637.832.876.770.380.468.3
Personal preference11.515.921.03.05.93.68.0
Some other reason5.66.27.03.83.94.67.1

This legislation pushed the issue of regulation of child care facilities to the forefront. In 1989 the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development initiated the Study of Early Child Care. This comprehensive ongoing longitudinal study was designed to answer many questions about the relationship between child care experiences and children's developmental outcomes. The 1999 phase of the study examined whether the amount of time children spent in child care affected their interactions with their mothers. Results showed that the number of hours infants and toddlers spent in child care was modestly linked to the sensitivity of the mother to her child, as well as to the engagement of the child with the mother in play activities. Children in consistent quality day care showed less problem behavior, whereas those who switched day care arrangements showed more problem behaviors. Children in quality care centers had higher cognitive and language development than those in lower-quality centers.

The second phase of the study, The NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development: Findings for Children up to Age 4 1/2 Years (January 2006, http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/seccyd_051206.pdf), found that the quality of child care had an impact on children's social and intellectual development. The study defined a better quality of care as care that met ideal adult-to-child ratios, maintained ideal group sizes, and had well-trained child care providers. It also focused on the quality of children's actual day-to-day experiences in child care, observing children's social interactions and their activities with toys.

The study found that children who were in higher-quality child care had better cognitive function and language development in the first three years of life, as well as greater school readiness by age four and a half. Children in higher-quality care were also more sensitive to other children, more cooperative, and less aggressive and disobedient than were children in lower-quality care. Lastly, the study found that children who were cared for in child care centers rather than in home-based care had better cognitive and language development but also showed somewhat more behavior problems both in the child care setting and once they began kindergarten.

Child Care during Nonstandard Hours

Many parents choose to have one parent work non-standard hours to allow both parents to provide child care at different times of the day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the press release "Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules in May 2004" (July 1, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/flex.pdf), in 2004 twenty-seven million workers, or 27.5% of all full-time wage and salary workers, worked flexible hours and were able to vary their work hours to fit their schedules. That number was more than twice as many workers as in May 1985, but down from a high of 28.6% in May 2001. Flexible schedules were most common among management (44.7%) and professionals (31.5%), and were more common among non-Hispanic white (28.7%) and Asian (27.4%) workers than among African-American (19.7%) or Hispanic workers (18.4%).

By contrast, the percentage of those who worked an evening or overnight shift had fallen from 18% in 1991 to 14.8% in 2004. When asked why they worked a non-daytime schedule, 8.2% of shift workers answered they did so for better family or child care arrangements. (See Table 3.6.)

COST OF CHILD CARE

In February 2006 the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) published Breaking the Piggy Bank: Parents and the High Price of Child Care (http://www.naccrra.org/docs/policy/breaking_the_piggy_bank.pdf), which surveyed child care costs across the country. The survey shows that the average yearly cost for child care for a four-year-old ranged from $3,016 in Alabama to $9,628 in Massachusetts. For an infant, annual costs jumped to $3,803 in Alabama and $13,480 in Massachusetts. And child care in urban care centers was so expensive that it could cost more than public college tuition.

Low-Income Families

According to the NACCRRA, in 2007 a low-income family with two parents working full time, fifty-two weeks per year at the federal minimum wage earned $21,424 per year before taxes. These families spent an exorbitant proportion of their income on child care. For example, in New York, where the average annual cost of preschool care was $8,530, the median income for single-parent families was $21,128. This family would spend 40.4% of its annual income on preschool care. Even in Nevada, where the cost of child care averaged a relatively low $3,200, a single-parent family earning the median income of $22,429 would spend 14.3% of its annual income on child care.

Julia Overturf Johnson estimates that in 2002 the average family with a working mother with a preschool child spent 10% of its income on child care. Families in poverty in which the mother was employed paid an average of $67 per week in child care costs, compared with families not in poverty, who paid, on average, $98 per week. Although families below the poverty level paid less per week than higher income families, they spent more than three times the percentage of their income on child care as other families (25% compared with 7%). Many poor and low-income families were forced to enroll their children in low-cost, and often poor-quality, child care centers. As a result, these children spent much of their day in unstimulating and possibly unsafe environments.

Government Assistance with Child Care

BLOCK GRANTS

In some cases low-income and poor parents can receive government assistance in paying for child care. Recognizing that child care assistance helps contribute to a productive workforce, every state has a child care assistance program that subsidizes some child care using federal block grant money and state funds for those on welfare and for low-income working families. In some instances parents receive a voucher that they can use to pay for a portion of child care costs; in other states payments are made directly to the child care provider of the parents' choice. However, the NACCRRA notes that in early 2005 seventeen states had waiting lists for child care assistance, and Tennessee was no longer accepting applications even for their waiting list. Furthermore, the income cut-off to even be eligible for assistance was extremely low. In other words, child care assistance is available to only a small percentage of those families who need it.

HEAD START

Perhaps the best-known and most successful government-funded child care program is Head Start, a federal program begun in 1965 under the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The free program provides early education, health care, social services, and free meals to preschool children in families whose incomes are below the poverty line or who receive public assistance. In the "Head Start Program Fact Sheet" (March 2006, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/hsb/research/2006.htm), the ACF states that Head Start operates in every state, and in fiscal year 2005 it served 906,993 children. The Children's Defense Fund reports in Head Start Basics: 2005 (April 2005, http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/DocServer/headstartbasics2005. pdf?docID=616) that the program provides many benefits, including a greater likelihood that children will do well in school and graduate from high school.

TAX CREDITS

The Federal Dependent Care Tax Credit helps families by allowing them to claim an income tax credit for part of their child care expenses for children under the age of thirteen that enabled parents to work outside the home. The credit is on a sliding scale, ranging from 20% to 35% of qualified expenses; therefore, lower-income families receive slightly larger credits. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in "Child and Dependent Care Credit" (2007, http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch32.html#d0e71607), in 2006 parents could claim up to $3,000 in qualified expenses for one child or $6,000 for two or more children.

FAMILY LEAVE

In 1993 Congress enacted the FMLA, requiring employers with fifty or more employees to give unpaid time off—twelve weeks in any twelve-month period—to employees to care for newborn or newly adopted children, sick family members, or for personal illness. The employee must be returned to the same position—or one equivalent in pay, benefits, and other terms of employment—and must receive uninterrupted health benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that before this legislation fewer than a quarter of all U.S. workers received family leave benefits and that most of those who did worked in establishments of more than one hundred employees.

Jane Waldfogel notes in "Family and Medical Leave: Evidence from the 2000 Surveys" (Monthly Labor Review, September 2001) that in 2000, 17.9% percent of FMLA leave takers took their leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed foster child; 9.8% used it to care for a sick child; and 7.8% used it as maternity or disability time. Of all employees covered by the FMLA with children eighteen months or younger, 45.1% of men and 75.8% of women had taken an FMLA leave in the previous eighteen months.

Employer Involvement

Employers are increasingly providing family leave beyond the requirements of the FMLA as well as providing assistance to employees in finding child care. Employers find that providing such benefits can pay off in increased productivity, worker recruitment and retention, and community goodwill. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Pilot Survey on the Incidence of Child Care Resource and Referral Services in June 2000 (November 2000, http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/sp/ncrp0002.pdf), 13.8% of workers in private industry, as well as in state and local government, had access to child care resource and referral services. Most often these services were provided to employees by outside resources rather than directly by their employers. People working for large establishments (employing five thousand or more workers) fare best in access to child care resources.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caring for Children." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caring for Children." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/caring-children-0

"Caring for Children." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/caring-children-0