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The Big Answer

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Minding the Children

a book by Garaldine Youcha

(our site's book review)

This book looks at childcare from early times to the present. Various movements and organizations have affected the fate of childcare, and currently political and economic issues are seriously upstaging childcare concerns.

As one looks at all the proven-effective systems for dealing with childcare around the world, one wonders how the U.S. can continue to have just about the worst childcare support of any nation. Of course, as long as we run hugely expensive wars and support a huge military, going in serious debt to do so, the answer is obvious: we cannot afford it. Also, there isn't the political will.

Youcha reports on a relatively new movement that is beginning to attract parents who want to provide their children with a sense of community yet are not prepared to give up their own individuality. It is called cohousing, and it is adapted from highly successful experiments in Denmark, which provide common spaces for eating, laundry, cooking, and child care while maintaining separate homes.

Cohousing playground next to Common House
Cohousing playground next to Common House

This makes sense for many reasons: access to other parents to trade childcare duties with, and cheaper living since you do not need much spending on appliances. Also better social climate full of opportunities for social connection.

Babysitting co-ops are also a new actor on the childcare scene, giving support to many families who need this help. Many cannot afford any other type of childcare suppliers.

Among other subjects, Youcha reports on the Progressives, who were optimistically convinced that they could improve man's condition by improving mankind.

By the early 1900s, many Americans had left rural areas and moved to cities to take jobs in factories and offices. Although workers often lived in miserable conditions, city life attracted many newcomers because of an alluring consumer culture and new freedoms for young adults. Activist citizens started reform movements that worked for public education, labor rights, women's rights, the safety of the nation's food supply, and the conservation of natural resources—even though some of these movements often conflicted each other. These were Progressives—out to save, or at least improve—the world, or at least their country or their city. Start with the children, to improve things, went their thinking—and very good thinking it was.

By 2000, 72 percent of women with children under eighteen years of age were in the labor force, so childcare went from a Culture War hot-button issue to a situation needing help fast. The Child Care Development Block Grant of 1990 was therefore passed by Congress. It helps low-income families, families receiving public assistance and those families transitioning from public assistance in obtaining child care. The program, created in 1990, is authorized under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-193). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the current funding level for the Child Care and Development Block Grant provides assistance to only one out of 10 eligible children.

This block grant, of course, did little but throw money at the childcare problem that needed a larger, more holistic, systems approach, but it least it has been helpful for a relatively small percentage of eligible families who need this assistance. The overall childcare situation still remains bleak, with only 12 percent of childcare situations providing what's considered good childcare.

The author says that: “The federal government has long been in the child care business, providing subsidies for centers that serve the military, usually on military bases. But that limited involvement has not become a model for widespread funding outside the armed forces.”

The block grant just threw money at the childcare problem that needed a larger, more holistic, systems approach
The block grant just threw money at the childcare problem that needed a larger, more holistic, systems approach