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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

In In 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.

Excerpt

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 that focused largely on the choices of elite individuals did not discuss that for most women these “choices” are the product of systemic factors that are shaped by workplace and government policies. Though periodically the tragic death of a child in care is reported (Cohn, 2013; Newall, 2013) or an advocacy group issues a press release and is able to gain some media coverage, much recent media coverage of child care has focused on family choices.

In recent years, media coverage has focused on some of the dilemmas facing women and families regarding their need for child care (e.g., Chira, 2013; Graff, 2012; Quart, 2013; Slaughter, 2012). In a review of news articles from 2009 to 2011, surprisingly few focused on the so-called Mommy Wars, which became popular in the past decade and seemingly pit mothers who have opted to remain in careers while placing their children in child care against mothers who have opted out of the paid workforce to stay at home. Nearly all of the articles that referenced the . . .

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