School of Family and Consumer Sciences at The University of Akron
Professor Susan D. Witt, Ph.D.
To accompany Chapter 12
In the U.S. today, the vast majority of adult women are in the workforce.  Most adult working women are working full time jobs; many who are working part time jobs are working more than one part time job.  Most women with children are in the workforce.  While there was some suggestion in the past that women entered the workforce for reasons such as boredom or to make a little “extra money”, we must keep in mind that the primary reason women work is to support their families.  During the 1980s the economy worsened for families, particularly middle class families, meaning that both mom and dad have to work.  Also, many families are headed by single parent moms, and since they are often the sole provider for their families, they are in the workforce.

Issues Surrounding Child Care
- Cost – Across the U.S. there is a wide range of costs for child care.  Depending on where parents live, the cost of child care may range from $75 a week to several hundred dollars a week.  While cost is important, parents need to examine what they are getting for their child care dollar.  Some programs are very expensive but are excellent programs; some programs may have a low cost but are excellent programs.  Some programs or individuals, no matter what the cost, may do little more than provide an adult in the same room with the child, and offer little in the way of stimulation for the child.  There are expensive child care situations that are not very good and less expensive ones that are terrific.  Parents need to ask lots of questions about what the fees include. 
  • Availability - Some parents don’t work the usual nine-to-five hours.  They need to see how available day care is for their needs.  Many centers don’t have care for infants so parents who need to go back to work soon after a maternity leave may have a harder time finding high quality care for their babies.
  • Type of Care - Parents should look at what type of care is best at what ages.  For some individuals, family providers are preferred when the child is very young, with a switch to a center when the child moves into toddlerhood or preschool age.
  • Safety and trust issues - This is one area where parents need to ask questions and look around at the facility they are considering.  If a parent has any hesitation about a provider or facility, they should probably keep looking.  There are checklists for safety features that parents can get from local resource and referral agencies that will help them know what to look for as far as safety is concerned.
  • Sick children - Not readily available care for children who are sick.  Some hospitals or visiting nurse centers provide this.  It tends to be very expensive.  Parents should have some sort of backup plan for when their child gets ill.
  • Before and after school care - Again not as readily available as needed.  Difficult sometimes to find care for the short time in the morning when it may be needed and for those two to three hours after school.  Most public schools in our area have programs for kids after school.  They are generally run by local childcare facilities. - Quality - Again, there is a wide range of quality.  Unfortunately, in the U.S. research has shown that much of the childcare available is substandard.  Parents should decide what their criteria are for high quality care and ask questions.
  • On-site child care – There is not very much on site childcare available.  Many studies have shown that productivity goes up, and there is less absenteeism from employees when their children are cared for nearby.  Corporations and companies are hesitant to take on childcare because of the high cost and insurance issues.  In our area Little Tykes, City Hospital, the University of Akron, Kent State, Sterling Jewelry have on-site child care.  More and more companies realize the value of having on or near site childcare, but few are ready to take on the responsibility of providing it for their employees.
Changes in Child Care
Traditionally, parents could rely on a relative to care for children while they worked (grandma, aunt).  Nowadays, grandma is as likely to be in the workforce as the parent or doesn’t live nearby.  Families move more than they did in the past; there isn’t a relative nearby or close neighbor you’ve known for a long time to rely on to care for children.  More and more parents have to rely on outside people and institutions to care for their children.
Children are left on their own at younger ages than in the past.  Where we used to rarely see a child younger than 12 or 13 at home on their own after school, now it is fairly common to see children as young as 8 with no adult supervision or protection from the time they come home from school until parents get home from work.  And these children are sometimes responsible for caring for younger siblings until the parent comes home from work.
When children are sick, they are frequently left at home alone because there is no satisfactory care situation for them.  Sometimes parents take their own sick days to care for their sick kids and hope that they don’t get ill themselves.  Or when they do get ill themselves, they go in to work anyway - this leads to problems, too - co-workers who are exposed to illness, not being very productive at the job, etc.

Types of Child Care and Regulation
Other than relatives caring for children, common situations are childcare center, family day care provider, or in-home caregiver.  Some of the particulars of each of these are listed below.
Family Child Care Providers
- Individual, usually female, cares for child in her home.
- Usually least expensive type of care.
- No licensing in state of Ohio, although other states do have licensing for this type of care.
- Can be certified through Dept. of Jobs and Families to care for children who qualify for Title XX funds.  Families getting assistance to pay for child care must be working a certain number of hours a week, or be in a job training/education program, or be going to college.  Family income and family size are also taken into consideration.  Caregiver is certified and goes through a process that includes sheriff’s background check of all who live in the home, also has to have working telephone, two exits to outside, smoke detectors, fire extinguisher, other regulations.  There are several inspections of the home during the year (some are announced and some are unannounced).
- Can only care for six children at a time.  If caregiver has children of her own under the age of six, they must be counted in the six.  There is also a limit on number of infants that can be cared for.
Child Care Centers
- Most are licensed, and license must be renewed periodically.  Licensed centers should have up-to-date license displayed where it is easily seen.
- Licensing is specific about rules and regulations regarding space needs, toileting, food preparation, etc.  Ratios are listed below:
Under 12 months                      1 adult to 5 children
12-18 months                           1 adult to 6 children
18-30 months                           1 adult to 7 children
30 months-3 years                    1 adult to 8 children
3 year olds                               1 adult to 12 children
4-5 year olds                            1 adult to 14 children
School age                               1 adult to 18 children
11-15years old             1 adult to 20 children
- An individual must have a high school diploma to work in a center (according to licensing regulations in Ohio), although most centers require some coursework in child development, early childhood education, etc.  At this point the norm is for individuals to have at least a two-year degree in child development or early childhood.  The Head Start centers in our area have mandated that within the next few years, they will begin to require that all their staff have four-year degrees.  Licensed centers also require that within one year of being hired, staff must have 6 hours of child abuse training 6 hours of first aid training, and 6 hours of communicable disease training.  This is periodically updated with 3 additional hours of each.
- More expensive than family child care (usually).
- Lots of turnover among staff (40% turnover rate every six months).
- Pay isn’t very high for center staff.
  In-home Care
- Can be live in or live out.
- Most expensive type of care.
- Can hire your own or through nanny service (usually have some screening).
- Most expensive (should pay at least minimum wage).
- Have to file and pay appropriate taxes.
Some Effects of Child Care
For children from poor families with few resources, a good quality child care facility can help increase their I.Q., improve reading ability, help with impulse control, facilitate physical development.  Many studies have been conducted on the effects of childcare on children of all ages.  While there are many different findings, the one constant seems to be that quality is the most important factor when considering type of care.  A high quality center can be beneficial for all children, and children who attend a high quality program and who have parents who attend to their developmental needs will likely show no ill effects from being in child care. 
One study has found that there is the possibility of attachment disruption between mother and child if the child is under one year of age and is in a child care situation full time.  The disruption didn’t occur when children were over 1 year of age or under one year and only in care 20 hours a week or less.

How to Decide if a Child is Ready for Self Care

Need to consider the child’s maturity in four areas - physical, mental, social and emotional.  Some questions to ask:
1) Is the child physically ready to stay alone?  Is the child able to:
- lock and unlock the doors and windows of the home?
- perform everyday tasks such as fixing a sandwich, dialing the
   telephone and writing messages?
2) Is the child mentally ready to stay alone?  Does the child:
- tell time?
- understand what stranger and emergency mean?
- recognize danger and know how to stay safe?
- solve small problems on his/her own, but know when to get help?
- consider how his/her actions affect others?
3) Is the child socially ready to stay alone?  Does the child:
- solve conflicts with brothers and sisters with little help from adults?
- talk easily to the parent about what happens at school, and about his/her feelings?
- feel confident enough to contact another adult if a problem arises?
4) Is the child emotionally ready to stay alone?  Does the child:
- feel confident and secure when alone?
- seem willing to stay alone?
- know how to handle fear, loneliness or boredom?
- know how to handle responsibility, such as getting ready for school on time and looking out for younger brothers and sisters?
Other considerations even when the child seems mature enough to stay alone:
    • Is the home safe?
    • Is the neighborhood safe?
    • How long will the child be alone each day?
    • Is there a place nearby where an adult lives or works, and where the child can go for help?
    • Does the child have special medical, physical or emotional needs?
    • Is the family going through a difficult transition period due to a recent move, death, divorce, or remarriage?
Children in self care do best when they are not overburdened by caring for younger siblings.  Children caring for siblings need to be older and more mature than other children who might be ready for self care.  Younger siblings need to be comfortable about staying home without an adult.
Questions for Parents
1) Do you feel comfortable about your child staying alone?
2) Are you ready to give your child more independence and freedom? It can be helpful to try out self care on a trial basis to see how well it works and to make sure the child likes the new arrangement.  It is important to periodically review the self care situation to see how it is working out for you and your child.
3) What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three types of child care?
4) What should parents look for in a child care situation for: - Infant - Preschooler - School age child
5) What would you include in a high quality child care program?
6) What should be considered when thinking about leaving a child in self care?

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