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Child Care in the United States: Yesterday and Today Essay

Family structure and the role of women within the family have changed significantly in the last two decades. Today, over one-half of the mothers who have preschool children are employed outside the home, and nearly an equal number are single parents. More and more parents need to turn to non-family members to help care for their children while they are employed. Supplementary care of young children by non-family members is not new, however. Throughout history families have needed to rely on others to watch over their children.

The beginning of the day care movement originated with the welfare and reform movements of the 19th century. “Day care grew out of a welfare movement to care for immigrant and working class children while their impoverished mothers worked (Scarr & Weinberg, 1986, p. 1140). ” The day care centers of today evolved from these day nurseries which began in Boston in the 1840s. The early nurseries cared for children of working wives and widows of merchant seamen who were an economically deprived and disadvantaged group in society.

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Settlement houses were especially active in promoting day care for immigrant children. Jane Adams, a well-known reformer in her era, developed nurseries for poor children who needed supervision and care while their parents endeavored to survive in a new land. “Day care,” according to Scarr and Weinberg (1986), “was founded… as a social service to alleviate the child care problems of parents who had to work and to prevent young children from wandering the street. During the last half century there has been a substantial increase in the labor force among women who have children under the age of 18.

In 1940 only 8. 6% of mothers with children younger than 18 were in the work force (Bridgman, 1989). According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of women with children younger than three years of age were working in 1985. This represents a 33% increase over 1975 figures and a 47% increase over 1965 figures (Hofferth, 1987). According to the 1996 Yearbook on *The State of America’s Children,* 57% of the women with children younger than three are now in the workforce and 60% of women with hildren younger than six. Furthermore “Is daycare beneficial for children under the age of five? Well studies show that child care center is a beneficial tool for a child’s development because they learn social skills and gain an appreciation for education at an early age. Researches have shown that children’s brains grow faster during the first five years of their life. In addition, there are two parts for the first five years of children development: zero to three, and three to five.

First part is zero to three year old which the children are learning about themselves, the world around them and about the parents or the care givers. For example, at the time of around 1 year, the babies will begin to learn language and communication by how they express their needs and feelings through sounds and cries, body movements, and facial expressions. The caregivers at daycare will watch and listen to see how the babies communicates what the babies is thinking and feeling. The caregivers also repeat the sounds and words the babies use and have back-and-forth conversations.


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