When Children Are Caregivers for Children ; Welfare Reform and a Child-Care Shortage Force More Poor Families To

By Stacy A. Teicher, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 2000 | Go to article overview

When Children Are Caregivers for Children ; Welfare Reform and a Child-Care Shortage Force More Poor Families To


Stacy A. Teicher, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


For many poor families, including some now making the transition from welfare to work, the pressing need for child care is increasingly being met by an unlikely helpmate: children themselves.

Recent research points to a hidden - but probably growing - trend in which parents struggling to make ends meet leave young children in the care of their older children, especially girls. Most often, these regular child-care duties start around age 11 or 12, but some as young as eight are responsible for feeding toddlers and putting them to bed at night or getting them up in the morning while their parent is at work.

While such responsibilities can foster maturity and compassion, they can also overload kids of a tender age - emotionally and educationally. Researchers who study poverty's effect on families say, ultimately, the nation needs to address the shortage of affordable child care, but that in the meantime, kids who act as "second moms" can benefit from programs that take into account their significant family duties.

"If we think children in our society need ... to have the room to develop who they are and who they can be,... then we have to deal with the material circumstances of ... poor families who fundamentally rely on child labor to manage," says Lisa Dodson, a researcher at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Cambridge, Mass., and author of a 1998 book about women and girls in poor America.

Vanessa's world

From Vanessa Santos's perspective, the responsibilities at home are more than a 15-year-old should have to bear. She and her 14- year-old sister live with their aunt and grandmother in Boston, and they regularly take up mop and sponge to keep the house clean. They also help their grandmother care for as many as five infants and toddlers at a time, mostly relatives whose families can afford to pay a small amount.

Vanessa does have a fun after-school outlet, working as a peer adviser at Teen Voices, a multicultural magazine by and for girls. But she wishes she had time for other things - including just hanging out with friends.

"It's kind of fun working with the little kids," Vanessa says during a break at the magazine office. "But after a while, when you do it, like, every single day, it gets tiring.... I hardly have time to do my homework."

Educational implications for both the older and younger siblings are worrisome.

"You can't separate what's happening on the child-care side ... and what's happening to them on the education side," says Joan Lombardi, a child- and family-policy specialist based in Alexandria, Va. Not only do teens or preteens caring for children have less time for homework, but some even miss school to fill in when other arrangements for their siblings fall through.

Even students as young as middle-schoolers are forgoing programs designed for after-school enrichment, says Beth Miller of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time. "I don't think it often occurs to the general public that many, many 12- to 14-year-olds are carrying that kind of responsibility. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When Children Are Caregivers for Children ; Welfare Reform and a Child-Care Shortage Force More Poor Families To
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.