Putting Children First: How Low-Wage Working Mothers Manage Child Care

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In the five years following the passage of federal welfare reform law, the labor force participation of low-income, single mothers with young children climbed by more than 25 percent. With significantly more hours spent outside the home, single working mothers face a serious childcare crunch—how can they provide quality care for their children? In Putting Children First, Ajay Chaudry follows 42 low-income families in New York City over three years to illuminate the plight of these mothers and the ways in which ...

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Overview

In the five years following the passage of federal welfare reform law, the labor force participation of low-income, single mothers with young children climbed by more than 25 percent. With significantly more hours spent outside the home, single working mothers face a serious childcare crunch—how can they provide quality care for their children? In Putting Children First, Ajay Chaudry follows 42 low-income families in New York City over three years to illuminate the plight of these mothers and the ways in which they respond to the difficult challenge of providing for their children’s material and developmental needs with limited resources.

Using the words of the women themselves, Chaudry tells a startling story. Scarce subsidies, complicated bureaucracies, inflexible work schedules, and limited choices force families to piece together care arrangements that are often unstable, unreliable, inconvenient, and of limited quality. Because their wages are so low, these women are forced to rely on inexpensive caregivers who are often under-qualified to serve the developmental needs of their children. Even when these mothers find good, affordable care, it rarely lasts long because their volatile employment situations throw their needs into constant flux. The average woman in Chaudry’s sample had to find five different primary caregivers in her child’s first four years, while over a quarter of them needed seven or more in that time.

This book lets single, low-income mothers describe the childcare arrangements they desire and the ways that options available to them fail to meet even their most basic needs. As Chaudry tracks these women through erratic childcare spells, he reveals the strategies they employ, the tremendous costs they incur and the anxiety they face when trying to ensure that their children are given proper care.

Honest, powerful, and alarming, Putting Children First gives a fresh perspective on work and family for the disadvantaged. It infuses a human voice into the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of welfare reform, showing the flaws of a social policy based solely on personal responsibility without concurrent societal responsibility, and suggesting a better path for the future.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871541710
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Publication date: 7/28/2004
  • Pages: 365
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

AJAY CHAUDRY is a writer on social policy issues and a faculty and senior research fellow in urban policy and management at New School University.

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Table of Contents

About the Author ix
Acknowledgments xi
Foreword by Mary Jo Bane xv
Child Care Terms and Definitions xix
Mothers and Children in the Study Sample xxii

Chapter 1 Introduction: Children's Care in the Age of
Personal Responsibility 1
Chapter 2 Child Care Choices: "Ain't Nowhere for My
Baby to Go" 28
Chapter 3 Child Care Dynamics: "You Have to Move Your
Children Around All the Time" 85
Chapter 4 Child Care Concerns: "It's the Worst System Ever" 119
Chapter 5 Care Strategies: "They Say If I Cannot Do It
Myself, They Help Me" 156
Chapter 6 Choosing Our Future: Child Care Policies inthe
Age of Work and Personal Responsibility 187

Appendix A Our Children's Care: A Review of the Literature 215
Appendix B Discussion of Field Research Methods 248
Appendix C Interview Guide: Study of Child Care Arrangements in Low-Income New York City Neighborhoods 265
Notes 281
References 315
Index 333

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