Academic journal article Child Welfare

Child Day Care: A Key Building Block of Family Support and Family Preservation Programs

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Child Day Care: A Key Building Block of Family Support and Family Preservation Programs

Article excerpt

With all of the stresses on families in the 1990s, child day care has become a necessity of life. While child day care services have always been a part of child welfare, they have sometimes taken a back seat to the crises that arise in protective services. As child welfare services are reframed to emphasize family support, strengths, and resiliencies, an enhanced role for child day care services is emerging. Using the Pyramid of Services model, this article organizes the complexity of child day care systems and delineates their place in the framework of family preservation and support services.

Child day care is one of the most frequently used and most cross-cultural and cross-class family service in the United States. With the unprecedented number of women in the work force, and the unrelenting stresses on family functioning, child day care can be an essential family support, family maintenance, and family preservation service. Without the support of child day care, many families are vulnerable to losing their struggle to stay healthy and are at increasing risk of becoming part of the child welfare system.

On the one hand, many social service practitioners have a parent-focused, utilitarian view of child day care, perceiving it chiefly as a service for parents who work or are in school, a place to keep children safe, or a place where children can learn. They often do not have a broad understanding of the variety of child day care choices, the components of quality in child day care, and the potential of child day care to link families with other services. On the other hand, quality child day care providers in centers and in family child care homes strive to deliver child-focused and developmentally appropriate services, but often miss the opportunity to involve and strengthen families. They undervalue their potential contribution to parents as role models and their ability to teach positive parent-child interactions.

This article offers a framework for viewing the relationship between child day care and social services. It utilizes family support and family preservation concepts and demonstrates the place of child day care in a pyramid of services. To understand these programs, it is important to first explore the background of the 1993 family support and family preservation legislation.

Family Support and Family Preservation: Reframing Social Services for Families

Family support services and family preservation services have been used by communities throughout the country for the past 20 years. Both services operate on the premise that the earlier services are provided to families, the better the chance of preventing problems. The family support and family preservation legislation passed as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-66) was designed to create a family-focused national system adapted to the needs of individual states. The services are directed toward "enhancing parents' ability to create stable, nurturing home environments that promote healthy child development; assisting children and families to resolve crises, connect with necessary and appropriate services, and to remain safely together in their homes; and avoiding unnecessary out-of-home placement of children, and helping children already in out-of-home care to be returned to and be maintained with their families or in another planned, permanent living arrangement" [Children's Bureau 1994].

The Congressional intent was to have each state plan in an inclusive and collaborative fashion. "Because the multiple needs of vulnerable children and families cannot be addressed adequately through categorical programs and fragmented service delivery systems, we encourage states to use the new program as a catalyst for establishing a continuum of coordinated and integrated, culturally relevant, family-focused services for children and families" [Children's Bureau 1994].

Family Support Services

Family support services are core services that should be accessible to all families. …

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