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The Big Answer


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Time To Care

a book by Joan Lombardi

(our site's book review)

According to Lombardi, it is time to move beyond the either-or debate. “The impact of work on children depends on how their parents feel about their work, whether it spills over into family life, what support is available along the way, and what happens at home when the parents are not working.”

Continuing the argument about whether women should work or stay home is counterproductive and denies the current realities of families in the U.S.: The U.S. economic situation forces a good portion of families to be two-parent working families whether they like it or not, and most family situations, whether two-parents-working or one-of-two-parents working or single-parent-working, have difficulties coming up with adequate childcare, and, often, coming up with the needed money to pay for it. A big factor that precipitated this overall economic situation was, of course, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., which forced husbands to take lower-paying jobs which in turn required many women to work. Another factor is women wanted to work to have a fuller life—at least part-time. Another is the revamping of welfare: the public now expected mothers to work rather than receive support to stay home.

From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers
From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers; MCs' caregiving costs (free) and gas for transportation (minimal) represent minimized economic expenditures which will be particularly appreciated as childcare costs rise and yet childcare center quality decreases


Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence
Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence

Facts: In 2010, 48 percent of children ages 0–4 with employed mothers were primarily cared for by a relative—their father, grandparent, sibling, other relative, or mother—while she worked. (Source: childstats.gov) This is not statistically different from the percentages in 2005 and 2002. Twenty-four percent spent the most amount of time in a center-based arrangement (day care, nursery school, preschool, or Head Start). Fourteen percent were primarily cared for by a nonrelative in a home-based environment, such as a family day care provider, nanny, babysitter, or au pair. Nearly 1.3 million childcare workers care for children in the U.S. in childcare centers, their own home, or the homes of the children in their care. Many work full time, but part-time work and irregular hours are common. They average $19,300 per year and $9.28 per hour in 2010. About 40% of employed Americans work mostly during the evenings or nights, on rotating shifts, or on weekends—all difficult hours to get childcare for. It costs more to send your child to daycare than college. It’s not unusual for families to spend 10% or more of their income on childcare. Childcare center cost for 5 days a week care for a 3-year-old range from $241 to $640 per month. Most U.S. kids will spend some time in nonparental child care.

The author, Lombardi, has found yearly childcare costs in the year 2000 as high as $10,000 and these rates are even higher in 2012. She reports that “Families contribute 60 percent of the total national expenditure for child care, with only 39 percent coming from the government and 1 percent from the private sector.” Childcare is here to stay. “The question is no longer whether we should invest in child care, but rather under what conditions we can help children learn and grow.” Good point!

She says that in times gone by, old and young came together naturally in families. Today, 30 percent of children under five are cared for by their grandparent(s) while their parents are at work, in school, etc. She also says we need to somehow re-engage older people in childcare (we assume she means caring for other parents’ kids, since 30% seems like lots of engagement to us). She describes Head Start, Beacon Schools, and extended hours—it is possible in the future that all schools will be open extended hours, serving as true community hubs, and dealing with after-hour and before-hour childcare. And she advocates for childcare workers getting a “living wage” so they’ll stay with this line of work and not jump ship the minute some other job offers more money.

30 percent of children under five are cared for by their grandparents, but idle elders should work at centers
30 percent of children under five are cared for by their grandparents, but idle elders should work at centers

Her book promotes “Redesigning Child Care to Promote Education, Support Families, and Build Communities” according to its subtitle. The Library Journal says “The first associate commissioner for child care in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and adviser to many national organizations, Lombardi provides a road map for mentally reframing and physically restructuring child care in this country.”

Like Lombardi, we believe older people doing childcare is best for both parties—as long as they are competent and the values they teach are not contrary to the parents’ values and they do not think TVs are good babysitters (while they nap, for example).

Elders doing childcare is best for both parties—as long as they are competent and do not think TVs are good babysitters
Elders doing childcare is best for both parties—as long as they are competent and do not think TVs are good babysitters

In our formulation, MCs (microcommunities) will have either a central structure with both eldercare and childcare or a childcare space in one of the MC member’s homes. Competent elders would do childcare at times, as she suggests. And so would other MC members—whomever the child chooses. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match