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The Tragedy of Child Care in America

The Tragedy of Child Care in America

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Tragedy of Child Care in America
    Book Description:

    Why the United States has failed to establish a comprehensive high-quality child care program is the question at the center of this book. Edward Zigler has been intimately involved in this issue since the 1970s, and here he presents a firsthand history of the policy making and politics surrounding this important debate.

    Good-quality child care supports cognitive, social, and emotional development, school readiness, and academic achievement. This book examines the history of child care policy since 1969, including the inside story of America's one great attempt to create a comprehensive system of child care, its failure, and the lack of subsequent progress. Identifying specific issues that persist today, Zigler and his coauthors conclude with an agenda designed to lead us successfully toward quality care for America's children.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15626-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Challenge of Child Care
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1970 finding affordable, good-quality child care was identified as the number one challenge facing America’s families.¹ Despite a growing body of knowledge about the developmental needs of young children and the valiant efforts of advocates and policymakers, the subsequent forty years have been marked by pitifully little progress toward the creation of a coherent child care system. Consequently, the United States continues to experience what has aptly been referred to as a “silent crisis” in child care.² Although the problem is common, its nature is as diverse as the population itself. In fact, the term “child care” means different...

    (pp. 13-39)

    In the United St ates, child care has traditionally been perceived as a private responsibility.¹ While other nations, including much of Western Europe, have systems of child care starting at infancy, the U.S. government generally restricts its intervention into this realm of the family to cases of abuse and neglect or disputes of child custody. When it comes to the care of children before they enter kindergarten, families are left to struggle with minimal guidance or assistance. Ross Thompson, an expert on early development, argues, “Society’s commitment to ensuring the healthy development of every child requires far more than standing...

    (pp. 40-65)

    In the two decades following the veto of the 1971 Comprehensive Child Development Act, no major piece of child care legislation became law. Finally, in 1990 the Child Care and Development Block Grant was authorized at $750 million for its first year—a relatively small sum compared with the $2 billion authorized for the CCDA in 1971.¹ Surprisingly, the CCDBG was signed by a Republican president amid outcry from a right wing even more powerful than it was in 1971. This turn of events, it seems, was yet another twist in the tangled history of American child care policy.


  8. CHAPTER FOUR Quality and Affordability
    (pp. 66-81)

    Considering the poor quality that has characterized child care in the United States, one might think that we lack a knowledge base about the developmental importance of care. However, research over the past three decades has significantly advanced our understanding of what constitutes quality child care as well as of its role in children’s development and educational success.¹ Further, we now know that good-quality care differs depending on the age of the child. We typically think differently about infants and toddlers, about preschoolers, and about school-age children. This chapter begins with an in-depth examination of the elements of good-quality child...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Infant and Toddler Child Care THE CRITICAL CONUNDRUM
    (pp. 82-97)

    How do we, as a society, best care for children of working parents during their first three years of life? This is perhaps the most controversial and vexing challenge of child care, and its importance cannot be overemphasized, as it affects millions of children daily. Among mothers of infants under age one, 59 percent are in the labor force or are actively looking for work.¹ Consequently, a large proportion of very young children are now placed in supplemental child care, sometimes as early as at three weeks of age.² Indeed, according to a 2002 U.S. Census Bureau report, half of...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Preschool-Age Child Care
    (pp. 98-114)

    Today, there are more than 4.5 million three- and four-year-old children with a working single parent or two working parents.¹ How these children spend the day while their parents are at work has consequences for their development, and the current system has implications for future policy. I will consider four types of arrangements for preschoolers: full-day child care settings (including centers, family child care providers, relatives, and babysitters); private preschools; state-funded preschools, operating in forty states; and Head Start. For each type of arrangement I will examine how well positioned it is to meet the often competing demands of being...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN School-Age Child Care
    (pp. 115-133)

    Today, there are more than 28 million school-age children between the ages of five and thirteen with either one single working parent or two working parents.¹ The gap between the end of a child’s school day and his or her parents’ workday in many cases can amount to twenty to thirty-five hours per week. According to the best estimates, 6 million children in the United States under age thirteen spend these afternoon hours at home alone, caring for themselves each day.²

    Increases in maternal employment, along with research findings on the developmental consequences of how children spend the after-school hours,...

    (pp. 134-153)

    In the preceding chapters, I examined the dynamics of America’s child care tragedy in depth. As bleak as the situation is, there has been some progress—albeit fragmented and confined—since the failure of the Comprehensive Child Development Act. In this chapter, I discuss the most important of these developments and examine both their promise and limitations. Perhaps the most serious lesson of these years is that the solution to America’s child care problem does not lie at the federal level. Rather, the most significant progress has evolved at the state level. Therefore, I close this chapter with a description...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Envisioning a Solution
    (pp. 154-172)

    In the first three chapters of this book, I reviewed the growing body of knowledge about the developmental needs of young children and the valiant efforts of advocates and concerned policy makers to address those needs. I argued that our nation continues to experience what has been aptly referred to as a “silent crisis” in child care.¹ The next five chapters of the book discussed the depth of the child care problem, efforts to relieve the crisis, and opportunities for future action. Now I return to what I see as the weaknesses of child care policy in the United States...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 173-204)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 205-215)