Today, thirteen million preschoolers (roughly 30% of America’s children) attend day-care. While the media insist that parents clamor more than ever for child care, recent studies show they would much rather have alternative options.
The Family Research Council’s (FRC) latest issue of the Family Policy Review, entitled “The Child-Care ‘Crisis’ and its Remedies,” surveys the current state of America’s multi-billion dollar day-care industry and its problems.
Child psychologist Jay Belsky makes this particular FRC publication the big-little book of child-care with results from National Institute for Child Health Development (NICHD) studies through the 80’s and 90’s. Belsky’s conclusion: non-parental care is significantly correlated to aggression in children.
Despite an earnest search for the truth about child care, Belsky’s unpopular results had him ostracized and put in a bad media spotlight, he remembers. Belsky is frustrated by the fact that to this day, his fellow scientists are reluctant to concur with his findings.
Through the taxes they pay, one-income families are subsidizing day-care services for families with two incomes, writes Heidi Brennan, a stay-at-home mom in “Framing Family-Policy Debate.” Brennan, who serves on the Board of Directors of Family At Home Network (FAHN), says that a family of four that paid two percent of its income in taxes to the government in 1948 pays nearly 40 percent today. However, parents can obtain an additional tax credit if their kids are in day care.
Brennan proposes the tax credit be made available to families of stay-at-home parents as well. Similarly, Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, recently introduced a $200 child tax credit for children up to age six, also called the “stay-at-home tax credit.”
“All parents are working parents whether they work in the home or outside of the home,” Sen. Murkowski writes. “I don’t believe the government should dictate the choices parents have to make about whom to have to care for their children.”
Also in the issue, Swedish parliamentarian Ture Skånberg recalls one brief moment in child-care history when both stay-at-home parents and two-income families enjoyed equal treatment from at least one government.
In 1994, Swedish law mandated a Child Maintenance Allowance. This allowance provided $235 a month for every child from the age of one to three years. The amount was less for children in day-care institutions already subsidized by the government.
Although Swedish socialism has indeed been a steady supporter of day care, Alan C. Larson, director of the Families in America Study Center, shows how a socialist government had at certain points in history also opposed day-care.
In “The Fractured Dream of Social Parenting,” Larson shows Alva Myrdal successfully crusading behind a socialist/feminist ideology to lead Sweden into an era of social parenting. “Essentially, the child care debate is an ideological one,” Larson concludes.
Another social scientist, Charmaine Yoest, shares the results of a survey that tries to explore whether utilizing paid leave made a difference in meeting children’s and mothers’ needs for time with each other.
Surprisingly, Yoest, an Andrew W. Mellon doctoral fellow, concludes that paid leave may not necessarily translate to more time spent together and may even encourage putting the child in commercial care earlier.
David Wagner, former director of legal policy for the FRC, answers his question “Is the Workplace Becoming a Surrogate Home?” with another question entitled, “Solutions?” Wagner proposes a sex/gender neutral family wage policy that demands higher wages to whoever is the “family breadwinner,” but he does not see his proposal as the only solution.
This same hesitancy to offer a solution in law is seen in Richard T. Gill’s proposal of a Parental Bill of Rights based on the GI Bill of Rights, which helped American veterans of World War II start new careers.
Gill, an economist and media personality, tells us that “parents who raise their own young children perform an important social service – but at the cost of both current income and long-run career prospects. In return for these socially desirable sacrifices, society will compensate them by subsidizing their further education so that if they wish, they can effectively reenter the labor force or in some cases, enter the labor force for the first time.”
The common thread that runs through these commentaries is that the child-care “crisis” is an apparent exists only because the media and child-care stakeholders make it seem that non-parental care is a necessity. Yet the vast majority of parents, including those who may find caring for their children at home an economic burden, take on this burden nonetheless.
These scholars’ studies and discussions support the claim that non-parental child care has weightier cons than pros and that the trend for stay-at-home parenting is growing.
Nicole Tigno is a free-lance writer based in Washington, D. C.