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Executive Summary C hanging parental work patterns are transforming family life. Among the many transformations that have occurred in the Ameri- can family over the past 30 years, few are as dramatic as the in- creased rates of paid employment among mothers with children. From 1970 to 2000, the overall maternal labor force participation rate rose from 38 to 68 percent; for mothers with the youngest children, birth to age 3, this rate rose from 24 to 57 percent. This trend has held for mothers in a wide variety of circumstances--first-time mothers and never-married mothers, for example--and for all groups, regardless of family income, education, race and ethnicity, or place of residence. During this same period, use of nonparental child care also increased dramatically, taking place in a variety of child care arrangements, including child care centers, family child care, care by family members, neighbors and friends, and other organized activities. Many more children and adoles- cents are spending much more of their time in the care of adults other than their parents than did young people in the past. This dramatic transformation of work and family life in the United States has brought many benefits to society, but a significant challenge remains: a large percentage of the 35 million children and adolescents ages birth to age 14 with working mothers are in a child care arrangement with someone other than their parents for an average of 22 to 40 hours a week-- amounting to nearly 1 billion hours these children spend in out-of-home care each week. Substantial progress has been made in the past 15 years in determining 1
2 WORKING FAMILIES AND GROWING KIDS the effects of child care on children's cognitive and social functioning. If children and adolescents are exposed to high-quality care, their develop- ment can be significantly enhanced, benefiting them and society as well. The benefits of early childhood educational interventions and of after- school programs for early adolescents, particularly for children and young people from low-income families, have helped persuade municipal govern- ments, state legislatures, and the federal government to invest more in these programs. However, society has not taken full advantage of the opportuni- ties child care provides. Many children and adolescents spend long hours, often at early ages, away from their parents in unstimulating, mediocre care. COMMITTEE CHARGE AND SCOPE The Committee on Family and Work Policies was established by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families with support from the Foundation for Child Development, the Ford Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to consider the implications of work trends for child and adolescent well-being and development. The committee was asked to synthesize the research regarding work and family trends; to integrate the scientific, theoretical, and policy literature on the implications these trends have for the well-being and development of children and adolescents; and to explore the range of policies and programs that might support the devel- opment and well-being of the children and adolescents in working families. The committee's primary focus was the area of overlap among four areas of research: (1) work patterns and experiences of working parents; (2) developmental needs of children and adolescents; (3) support available to families; and (4) the roles of parents and caregivers. The committee's foremost priority was to understand the implications of work on the well- being of the children and adolescents in working families. While we consid- ered the experiences of working families across economic, cultural, and social contexts, we looked most particularly at the challenges of families with low incomes in meeting demands of work and parenting. These families face particular challenges in managing these two spheres of their lives. The committee looked specifically at the effects of two laws on families' work patterns: the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, which established the rights of certain workers to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-pro- tected leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or for ill or disabled family members; and the Personal Responsibility and Work Op- portunities Act of 1996, which made cash assistance for poor families contingent on employment or participation in activities to prepare parents for work.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3 We also reviewed information on the ways in which supports for work- ing families have been integrated into employment policies of private sector companies. The data that do exist suggest that access to corporate policies and benefits is uneven, with lower-income workers less likely to be covered. However, overall, the committee found that the scientific data in this area are limited and do not provide a comprehensive understanding of who these policies affect and the extent to which they support the well-being of children in working families. The committee's findings are therefore fo- cused on public policies. FINDINGS Employment Trends · More children have employed parents. The number of working mothers has increased. From 1970 to 2000, overall maternal labor force participation rates rose from 38 to 68 percent and paternal labor force participation remained high and stable. The result of this labor force change is that a larger fraction of children live in families in which all available parents are in the labor force--either they live with a single parent who is em- ployed or they live with two parents, both of whom work at least some hours for pay each week. · Access to parental leave is limited. Only 45 percent of parents working in the private sector have guaranteed unpaid parental leave through the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. Less than 5 percent have access to paid parental leave. Many parents do not have the right to more than the 12 weeks of leave mandated by the FMLA. Child and Adolescent Care · Children and adolescents spend significant time in nonparental care. Children and adolescents are spending many hours in the care of someone other than their parents. Approximately 80 percent of children ages 5 and younger with employed mothers are in a child care arrangement for an average of almost 40 hours a week with
4 WORKING FAMILIES AND GROWING KIDS someone other than a parent, and 63 percent of these children ages 6 to 14 spend an average of 21 hours per week in the care of someone other than a parent before and after school. · Opportunities for care for adolescents are limited. Opportunities are limited for school-age children and adolescents, particularly those from low-income families, to engage in meaning- ful and enriching activities during nonschool hours. Since the work- days of most parents often do not fully coincide with the school days of older children and adolescents, many adolescents--as many as 40 percent of 14-year-olds with working mothers--care for themselves without adult supervision during nonschool hours. · Quality of care matters. The quality of child care has implications for children's develop- ment. The relation between participation in child care and children's development depends on such variables as the activities children experience in care, the quality of their interactions with their caregivers, the type of setting (e.g., day care center, family day care home, relative care), and amount of time in care. The quality of care does not only matter in early childhood. The characteristics of care and activities for school age children and adolescents are also linked with developmental outcomes. For example, structured, supervised, and skill-focused activities for adolescents show favorable outcomes, while unstructured programs may not only fail to offer benefits, they may also amplify existing problems or encourage the development of new problems. · Much child care is not of high quality or developmentally beneficial. There is a wide range in the quality of care that is available for young children in the United States, but the evidence indicates that much of the child care is mediocre or worse. Children in lower- income families often receive lower quality care than children in higher income families. Publicly funded early care and education programs which are intended to provide developmentally beneficial nonparental care for young children, such as Head Start and Early Head Start, reach only about 40 percent of those who are eligible. Although efforts are being made at better integration, at present programs to provide care for children of working parents are often not integrated with programs to provide developmentally beneficial care.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5 Implications of Work and Care Trends In some circumstances, employment of both parents in a two-parent family or employment of the only resident parent in a single-parent family can be beneficial for children. Work can result in additional income, pro- vide a positive role model for children, and expose children to stimulating and supportive care environments--if the child is being cared for in a quality setting--and, for adolescents, can result in increased autonomy and responsibility. But if a consequence of employment is the use of poor- quality child care, lack of supervision of children and adolescents before and after school, increased parental stress because of time demands, or a stressful or low-paying job, then the implications for children and adoles- cents can be negative. Some young children are particularly affected by maternal employ- ment. For newborns, outcomes for mothers and children are better when mothers are able to take longer periods of leave. Outcomes for children may be better when mothers are able to return to work part time or to delay returning to work full time until after the first year of a child's life. Adolescents whose parents work and who do not have an adult-super- vised arrangement after school may experience social and academic prob- lems as a result of time spent in self-care. Benefits for children and adolescents may be generated when employ- ment increases a family's economic resources. Family income influences the adequacy of food, clothing, and housing, safety from injury and from dan- gerous elements in the physical environment, availability of health care services, and access to a variety of toys, books, and stimulating outings and opportunities. A family's income also appears to affect material well-being, which in turn affects children and adolescents. Current Public Policy Response The public sector has responded to the challenges facing working fami- lies in caring for their children by providing them with greater resources. Many new public programs for children and adolescents have developed in the past 25 to 30 years in response to the increasing movement of mothers into the labor force. There has also been an expansion of social welfare programs to cover such services as early childhood education and medical care for low-income children. However, many of these programs are still not specifically designed to enhance the cognitive, social, and behavioral development of children. Those that do are not available to all children and adolescents. Fundamentally, policies and programs for working families and their children often focus on only half of the equation--either the employment of the parent or the well-being of the child--without taking into consideration the simultaneous and interactive needs of both.
6 WORKING FAMILIES AND GROWING KIDS POLICY OPTIONS A primary goal for public policy should be to improve the quality of care for children and adolescents in working families. The committee identified policy options in the areas of child and ado- lescent care and family leave that could assist in meeting this goal. When- ever possible, the committee developed rough cost estimates of these policy options, as well as some of the likely benefits, but the information needed for a complete cost-benefit analysis of all of the policies discussed here is not available. The committee is also sensitive to the reality that additional funds will be required to improve care for children and that budgets are constrained. The policy options presented have implications for state as well as federal decision making. The recent devolution of much public responsibility for child and family well-being from the federal government to the states presents opportunities to develop innovative strategies that respond to local employment and demographic conditions. Child Care · Policy Option: Expand and increase access to Head Start and Early Head Start. Expand the hours of Head Start, increase access to serve more children who are not currently eligible, including children under age 3, or provide full-day, year-round care. Head Start and Early Head Start are currently limited to children whose families have incomes below the poverty line (or whose child has a disability). Head Start targets children ages 3 and 4; Early Head Start targets children under age 3. The results of the Early Head Start Evaluation, as well as the National Head Start Impact Study currently under way, will provide guidance for program improvement, as the program ex- pands to serve more children from birth to age 5 for more hours and ensures that the program meets the full-day, full-year needs of work- ing families. · Policy Option: Expand prekindergarten and other early education programs delivered in community-based child care programs. Provide state prekindergarten dollars directly into full-day, com- munity-based child care programs and tie prekindergarten funding to higher standards, teacher qualifications, and curriculum require-
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 7 ments. These approaches would allow parents to choose providers that meet their full-day needs but also allow programs to improve quality. · Policy Option: Expand child care subsidies through quality-related vouchers. Provide vouchers with a reimbursement rate that increases with the developmental quality of child care purchased from accredited child care centers or family day care homes for children from birth to age 12. These vouchers would give parents an affordable incen- tive to seek child care of high quality and would give providers an incentive to improve quality in order to attract consumers with the greater purchasing power. Cost information for these child care policy options is summarized in Box ES-1 and discussed in more detail in the full report. Fully imple- mented, these policy options could cost as much as an extra $25.2 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start, as much as $35 billion for prekindergarten and early education, or as much as $54 billion for quality vouchers. Costs could be reduced through partial implementation of these options. The implementation of one or more options could also make the expansion of the other options unnecessary, given the overlap in the popu- lations they serve. Adolescent Care · Policy Option: Increase the availability, hours, and quality of after- school programs. Expand after-school program coverage and the provision of after- school enrichment activities for children and adolescents from low- income families through multiple settings, including schools, faith- based organizations, community centers, and programs such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Family Leave · Policy Option: Improve parents' ability to take leave after the birth of a child, especially among low-income parents.
8 WORKING FAMILIES AND GROWING KIDS BOX ES-1 Cost Estimates for Child Care Policy Options* Policy Option: Expand and increase access to Head Start and Early Head Start. Per child cost estimate (in 2001) Part-day, part-year Head Start: approximately $5,021 per child. Full-day, full-year Head Start: approximately $9,811 per child. Current spending $6.67 billion Cost estimate for this policy option The costs in addition to the current budget to expand or enhance services would vary depending upon who is served and by what level of services: · Full-day, full-year services provided to all eligible children ages birth to 5 years not currently served: $25.2 billion. · Part-day, part-year services provided to all eligible children ages birth to 5 years not currently served: $14.0 billion. · Year-round, full-day services extended to all children ages 3 to 4 years current- ly served only part-day, part-year: $2.5 billion. · Year-round, full-day services extended to all eligible children ages 3 to 4 years who currently are not served at all or are served only part-day, part-year: $7.8 billion. It should be noted that some of the eligible children not currently served by Head Start might be enrolled in similar programs funded by Title I-A or by state prekin- dergarten initiatives. Thus, these figures may overestimate the cost of expanding Head Start, but insufficient information is available to estimate by how much. Policy Option: Expand prekindergarten and other early education programs delivered in community-based child care programs. Per child cost estimate Part-day, part-year prekindergarten program: $4,000 to $5,000 per child. Current spending States are currently spending a little over $2 billion on prekindergarten initiatives for children at risk of school failure; at the federal level, $500 million is spent on prekindergarten through Title I (the education program for disadvantaged stu- dents); $6.67 billion is spent on the federal Head Start program. These expendi- tures do not take into account the amount spent on child care and prekindergarten by private paying parents with children ages 3 and 4. *The details of cost estimates included in this chapter can be found in Chapter 9 of the full report.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 9 Cost estimate for this policy option It is estimated that publicly funded prekindergarten for all would cost an additional $25 to $35 billion annually. Policy Option: Expand child care subsidies through quality-related vouchers. Per child cost estimate The estimated cost of a voucher for full-day year round high-quality child care for a child aged 0-5 in a family with income below the poverty line is $6,000, with lower estimates for older children, lower-quality care, and children in higher-income fam- ilies. Current spending Approximately $21 billion Cost estimate for this policy option It is estimated that the program would cost an additional $54 billion. There is evidence that taking family leave benefits parents and children, and that the right to do so is available to some but not others. However, unless there is some provision for earnings re- placement while on leave, many low-income workers will likely forego the opportunity to take unpaid leave. · Policy Option: Discourage the practice of requiring mothers on wel- fare to return to work full time during the child's first year. Given the negative effects on child outcomes when a mother re- turns to work full time in her child's first year of life for some groups of families, policies that would allow new mothers to delay return- ing to full-time employment until after the first three months of a child's life, and possibly until after the child's first birthday deserve attention. · Policy Option: Expand coverage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Cover activities and individuals not currently eligible (for ex- ample, attending meetings at children's schools, taking children to routine medical or dental visits), to provide options for working part time or with flexible hours, and to cover other family members (such as grandparents).
10 WORKING FAMILIES AND GROWING KIDS Research The committee notes throughout the report areas in need of further research. The most recent nationally representative data on the structural measures of child care quality (group sizes, caregiver to child ratios, pro- vider education and training, provider turnover rates) are from 1990. No nationally representative data are available on the process measures (the experiences that children have with their caregivers, with other children, and with age-appropriate activities and materials). No national surveys of child care collect information on quality, and process quality data are currently available from only a few state-specific surveys. In the committee's view, the highest research priority should therefore be the collection of national data on process quality through the institution of a new nationally representative survey of child care arrangements with a focus on the quality of care. CONCLUSION This report identifies important opportunities that have the potential to improve the quality of child and adolescent development in this country through new or expanded public policies. Children are spending vast num- bers of hours in child care that fails to add as much to their social and cognitive skills as we know can be provided. Recent research has convinced the committee that the nation is not doing nearly enough as a society to help families, particularly low-income families, with the difficult task of providing for the material and the developmental needs of their children. The committee has identified some promising policy options for action by policy makers. These policies should receive serious consideration.