Child Care and Inequality: Rethinking Carework for Children and Youth

By Uttal, Lynet | Journal of Marriage and Family, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Child Care and Inequality: Rethinking Carework for Children and Youth


Uttal, Lynet, Journal of Marriage and Family


Child Care and Inequality: Rethinking Carework for Children and Youth. Francesca M. Cancian, Demie Kurz, Andrew S. London, Rebecca Reviere, & Mary C. Tuominen. New York: Routledge. 2002. 266 pp. ISBN 0-415-93351-X. $24.95 (paper).

This anthology offers a new perspective on thinking about inequality in care work. Moving beyond the now commonly documented exploitation of care workers and gendered neglect of public policies, this anthology sheds light on how the context of institutional inequality shapes the experiences not only of care workers and care re-ceivers, but also of those who are trying to access care for their family members. The central message is that although everyone requires care, care is not equally accessible. The articles both reveal how inequality expresses itself and provide some examples that suggest solutions. The anthology is a diverse mix of topics loosely organized around children and youth care, mostly from the perspectives of caregivers or care workers and the care managers who have executive responsibility for organizing this care. This reality is illustrated with essays about child-care workers, activist mothering, foster care policy, and cancer support groups.

Written mostly by sociologists, the essays in this anthology are divided into three sections. The first section of five articles illustrates different kinds of inequalities that contextualize care work, and is followed by a section of three articles that focuses on the relationship between the family and government policy. The third section of six articles focuses on different forms of care that are provided outside of the family and deconstructs the myth that care of children is carried out only by mothers in their private homes.

The first and third sections are especially notable because of the unusual topics covered in them, such as Christa Kelleher and Bonnie Fox's essay on the gendered nature of postpartum caregiving practices and Francesca Cancian's examination of the dilemma of standards of care in early childhood care in Section I, as well as Eric Wright and Robert Connoley's essay on gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth support networks and Mark Chesler's article on institutional tensions between organizations for parents of children with cancer in Section III. Also notable are the two essays about teenagers, which contribute to expanding our thinking about care work beyond children ages birth to 5 years.

Two important messages that can be taken away from reading this anthology include: (a) families have unequal opportunities to provide direct family care (e.g., Demie Kurz points out how hard it is for exhausted, low-income working women to care for their own children); and (b) when families turn to outside institutions for care, what they can get is relative to their ability to pay for it (e. …

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