Child Rights and Remedies

By Robert C. Fellmeth | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Child Care

A. CHILD CARE DEMOGRAPHICS

1. Demand

Child care is divided into two markets: full-time child care for children under five years of age, and part-time (usually after school) care for older children. Full-time child care is in turn divided into two submarkets: full-day infant care and full-day toddler care.


a. U.S. Full Day Infant and Toddler Care

Children may enter organized child care as early as six weeks of age and remain in full day care until kindergarten, sometimes with the option of nursery or preschool for three or four year olds. The growth of preschool has been driven by the radical change in demographics partly discussed in Chapter 2, including the growth of unwed births and other single parent families, higher real estate (and rent) costs requiring more than one income in a twoparent household, and the concomitant growth in the employment of mothers. Currently, sixty-five percent of mothers with children under 6 are in the labor force.1 Less than 25% of families with these preschool children conform to the historical model of one parent working and one parent at home.2 Twelve million American preschoolers are in child care, another twelve million are income-eligible for child care assistance but do not receive it due to the block grant structure limiting allocation (see budget discussion in Chapter 1). The preschoolers with working mothers are now cared for by parents, relatives, or friends (57.5%), in-home (non-relative) care for the more affluent (3.3%), child care centers (22.1%), and licensed family child care providers (16.9%).3 Census data place 45,000 preschoolers in “self-care,” 432,000 cared for by a “sibling”, and 565,000 with “no regular arrangement.”4

The census data breakdown by income and race confirm the thesis of advocates that non-relative family child care remains either unaffordable or is unavailable for minority parents (i.e., available slots are not located in urban lowincome neighborhoods), that Head Start has yet to be embraced by or is unavailable to Hispanic parents, and that relatives of minority children bear a substantial child care burden.


b. U.S. Part-time Care for Children 5 to 14 Years of Age

Part-time child care for children in school is also driven by maternal employment. Of the 38.8 million U.S. children between 5 and 14 years of age, only

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