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In Our Hands

In Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy

Elizabeth Palley
Corey S. Shdaimah
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    In Our Hands
    Book Description:

    Working mothers are common in the United States. In over half of all two-parent families, both parents work, and women's paychecks on average make up 35 percent of their families' incomes. Most of these families yearn for available and affordable child care-but although most developed countries offer state-funded child care, it remains scarce in the United States. And even in prosperous times, child care is rarely a priority for U.S. policy makers.

    InIn Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy, Elizabeth Palley and Corey S. Shdaimah explore the reasons behind the relative paucity of U.S. child care and child care support. Why, they ask, are policy makers unable to convert widespread need into a feasible political agenda? They examine the history of child care advocacy and legislation in the United States, from the Comprehensive Child Development Act of the 1970s that was vetoed by Nixon through the more recent policies that support quality early education and universal pre-kindergarten. The book includes data from interviews with 23 prominent child care and early education advocates and researchers who have spent their careers seeking expansion of child care policy and funding and an examination of the legislative debates around key child care bills of the last half-century. Palley and Shdaimah analyze the special interest and niche groups that have formed around existing policy, arguing that such groups limit the possibility for debate around U.S. child care policy. Ultimately, they conclude, we do not need to make minor changes to our existing policies. We need a revolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-6491-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Child care in the United States has long been seen as a personal concern rather than a societal responsibility. In a widely hailed analysis of work-life media coverage from 1980 to 2006, Joan Williams, Jessica Manvell, and Stephanie Bornstein (2007) critiqued media portrayals of women choosing to “opt out” of paid employment in order to “return” to their mothering role. Their telling title, “‘Opt Out’ or Pushed Out?,” challenged the so-called opt-out revolution. They examined how the media dichotomy did not hold up when examined against the day-to-day realities that shape the choices of women and their families. Media coverage...

  5. 2 Framing
    (pp. 13-40)

    Caring for very young children in the United States has not been framed as part of larger universal policies to support families. As a result, it has been left on the sidelines of major political discourse. Framing, or the identification of a problem, affects the success of policy debates and is a major factor in the way that issues are constructed and debated in the public policy arena (Bosso, 1994). The targeted population of a policy and the perceived worthiness of that population also affect public policy support for programs (Rochefort & Cobb, 1994; Schneider & Ingram, 1993). Framing may be influenced...

  6. 3 History
    (pp. 41-74)

    Much of the debate around policies is decided prior to the introduction of the problem into the political process (Cobb & Elder, 1983). This chapter explores the history of U.S. debates around child care, as well as the history of the interest groups that have been involved in the debate (outlined in Chapter 4), to provide a partial explanation for the way in which child care and other family care policy has been framed in the United States. Some of this legislation has been reviewed most recently by Cohen (2001), who focused on the impact of government structure and other institutional...

  7. 4 The Role of Interest Groups
    (pp. 75-94)

    The term “interest group” “refers to any group that, on the basis of one or more shared attitudes, makes claims upon other groups for the establishment, maintenance, or enhancement of forms of behavior that are implied by the shared attitudes” (Truman, 1964, p. 33). In contrast to political parties, interest groups exist to further a relatively narrow agenda.

    On a simplest level, when we speak of an interest group we are referring to an organization that tries to influence government…. Interest groups are organizations that are not part of the government they are trying to influence…. Interest groups are distinct...

  8. 5 Current U.S. Child Care Policies
    (pp. 95-120)

    The United States has no comprehensive child care policy, but rather a patchwork of programs that do not have universal child care as their prime focus. The FMLA remains the only major national legislation enacted in the past twenty years that specifically addresses child care needs, albeit on a short-term basis. There have also been some recent local movements to pass paid sick leave, another short-term care solution, particularly in San Francisco and New York City. One exception to a trend of defunding in the wake of a struggling economy is the recent funding of programs to supply care and...

  9. 6 Women and Child Care
    (pp. 121-150)

    According to the Project on Global Working Families’ scale of family support policies (Heymann et al., 2007), the United States was one of only five countries, out of 177, that provided no guaranteed paid leave to women bearing children. In 66 of the countries surveyed, fathers were entitled to paid parental leave; in 31 of these countries fathers were also eligible for fourteen or more weeks of paid leave. As a result of the limited public policy in the United States, the private sector has been left to establish policy.

    This chapter explores the extent of U.S. problems with the...

  10. 7 Strategic Framing of Child Care
    (pp. 151-170)

    Building on the historical and legislative context that we have laid out, in the next chapters we provide an insider perspective on what it would take to build a child care movement in the United States. We examine why a broad-based movement around child care has not coalesced, despite the recent increase in calls for concerted efforts to address the quality, content, safety, and adequacy of care for preschool-age children starting from birth. The analyses presented in this chapter and the one that follows are based on data from interviews we conducted with key child care advocates to better understand...

  11. 8 Child Care as a Social Movement
    (pp. 171-200)

    In this chapter, we examine child care as a social movement by looking at the interplay of organizations involved with child care advocacy. In the previous chapter, we provided a more in-depth examination of how different organizational strategies and goals have shaped the conceptualization of child care as a problem and how it has been framed in the political arena. This chapter uses insights from social movement theory as a lens through which to examine the strategic choices of child care advocates. According to Snow, Soule, and Kriesi (2004), social movements are characterized by their actions toward a common agenda...

  12. 9 If We Have a Major Social Problem, Why Is There No Movement for Change?
    (pp. 201-220)

    U.S. child care policy must be understood in terms of the larger political and social context that influences beliefs about the proper role of government and the responsibilities of family and community in raising children. Public policy regarding child care has not defined it as a universal need since the 1970s. Policies have framed child care primarily as a poverty-based concern. This is both a cause and a symptom of the lack of more universal public policies. Though the early education movement has been more universally targeted, it often considers educational needs to the exclusion of the needs of parents...

    (pp. 221-224)

    To us, as mothers of young children, the problems outlined here are not only theoretically compelling but also personally and professionally obvious. Prior to examining child care policy, Elizabeth looked at the implementation of special education policy in American public schools, particularly related to mental illness and student discipline. Corey has examined child welfare policy and housing, which was largely a proxy for poverty, and truancy. In both fields, we have recognized the extreme challenges faced by families (and more particularly, mothers). We have also been struck by how much more circumscribed the choices are for low-income families and how...

  14. APPENDIX 1: A Brief Note on Research Methods
    (pp. 225-226)
  15. APPENDIX 2: Interview Guide for Interest Groups and Organizations Including Unions
    (pp. 227-228)
  16. APPENDIX 3: Study Respondents by Organization and Role
    (pp. 229-231)
  17. APPENDIX 4: Conservative Organization Websites Reviewed
    (pp. 232-232)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 233-236)
    (pp. 237-266)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 267-275)
    (pp. 276-276)