Championing Child Care

Article excerpt

Championing Child Care. Sally S. Cohen. New York: Columbia University Press. 2001. 397 pp. ISBN 0-231-11237-8. $49.50 (cloth), $22.50 (paper).

In Championing Child Care, Sally S. Cohen provides a comprehensive history and analysis of the politics that have shaped U.S. federal child care policy throughout the past 30 years. The book chronicles the long, convoluted process of trying to enact comprehensive federal child care policy, describing key players and points of conflict and compromise along the way. Cohen focuses on the politics, rather than the structure, of the policies; readers will need to turn elsewhere to learn about the content and structure of federal child care policy and programs or for an analysis of their effectiveness, both of which are beyond the scope of this volume.

The book recounts three critical points in federal child care policy-1971, 1990, and 1996-- reviewing each as a case study. Cohen's book is based on interviews with 114 people inside and outside government who were involved in child care policy making during this time span. She uses three theoretical frameworks for her analysis: the role of institutional structures, issue definition, and organized interest groups.

The bulk of the book provides an historical account of the politics underlying the policy making for federal child care policy. Cohen nicely interweaves her analysis into these historical chapters, using specific examples to illustrate a larger theme. She provides a nice balance of some insider detail on the key issues and political considerations influencing debate of a particular point without being esoteric for readers new to child care policy. She also gives a flavor of the political disagreements that influenced the outcome of debates at various stages. This illustrates her specific points and also drives home to the reader the major role that politics plays in such policy making, for better or for worse.

The book is organized chronologically. Chapter 2 reviews the politics that led up to the 1971 comprehensive child development bill that was vetoed by President Nixon and includes a brief review of child care policy developments across the 20th century, which set the context for the 1971 policy defeat. Chapter 3 reviews 1972-1988, which covers a period of unsuccessful attempts at political action on child care policy and culminated in the passage of child care entitlement programs as part of the 1988 Family Support Act. Chapter 4 covers the political action and advocacy leading up to the 1990 Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, the most (but not fully) comprehensive child care policy to date. …