Who will take care of children in the 21st century now that both parents are more and more likely to have full-time jobs? The old solution was to more-or-less force women take care of them (this is not saying that many women would not want to). But eventually women figured out that this is a bit unfair. And it is very unlikely that men in general would like to be put into the position that women were in (and in some ways still are).

Here are a few ideas about what may happen:
1- Children of working parents get handed over to professional nannies or day care centers. Sounds pretty scary, in fact even Brave New World-ish.
2- Parents work from home and take care of kids at the same time. Perhaps this would be feasible in the future for some professions, but it is not yet likely to happen on any large scale. (Note many companies still preferring employees without families.)
3- Grandparents/Extended family takes care of children. This may just be the best general solution for now. Another problem is the increasingly large percentage of the population that is retired. Grandparents who are willing to do this would be saved boredom and (in some cases) the feeling of uselessness that comes with increasing age, and parents would be able to trust them a lot more than they can trust someone they hired from an ad.

Will it happen? Who knows. It's very likely that the future will be a combination of the three. I just hope that whatever kind of child-rearing becomes dominant, it does not consist of leaving the kids in front of the TV all day.

Three basic types of child care

In-Home Childcare Providers

  • Nanny - a person who may or may not live in the home. She comes to your home to care for your children.
  • Au pair - typically a young person (18-25) that lives in your home and cares for your children. Au pairs usually come from abroad and live with the family for one year. They usually work for room and board plus a salary.

In-home providers are convenient for the parent. The child spends his day in familiar surroundings. There is less risk of illness. The parent has greater control over the care of the child. The provider may also have duties including housekeeping and cooking. There is a low child/provider ratio so the child gets the most individual attention of the three types of care.

In-home providers are also the most expensive. They are not required by law to be licensed. The family is the employer and, as such, is required to pay minimum wage, social security, disability, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation. (varies by state)


  • it's hard to find a trained caregiver
  • she may up and quit leaving you high and dry
  • little opportunity for an only child to bond with other children, less socialization
  • if the provider becomes ill, you have to find back up
  • au pairs only stay for a year before a new one must be found, little chance of provider/child bonding
  • there is no supervision of the provider

Family Day Care

  • small home daycare - there is one licensed adult caring for a small group of children of varying ages in his/her home. Regulations vary state to state. (for example, in Connecticut, the maximum daycare capacity is 6 full-time children, with no more than two under the age of 2, PLUS 3 school age children {before and after school}.)
  • group home daycare - Usually 12-14 children with an assistant (two adults). Regulations are stricter for group homes and are more in line with those of daycare centers.

Family Day Care homes are required by law to be licensed. Licensing entails thorough background checks into medical and criminal history. They are usually monitored by social services with surprise visits occurring throughout the year. Each home runs differently according to the provider's philosophies. Some are run like a preschool, with strict structure, and some are run more loosely like an extended family. Some home daycares are accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). This type of daycare is typically the choice for infants and toddlers. Children play with others of mixed ages, learning from the older kids as well as the provider. Generally, providers have a backup person to call if they are too ill to watch the children. It is also the least expensive of the three options.


  • not all caregivers have had early childhood education training
  • could go out of business with little warning
  • provider may feel socially isolated
  • provider may be more inclined to spend more time cleaning the house than playing with the children

Day Care Center

A business that works with large groups of children. The kids are grouped according to age and interact with that age group only. The structural programs vary in activities and educational philosophies. Some have Kindergarten programs, some have after school programs for elementary children. Daycare centers aid in socialization of children after age three. Generally not the best scenario for infants as the ratio is often one provider to four infants. The staff usually has some early childhood education training. When a staff member becomes ill, there are others to take her place. They are licensed by the state and accredited with National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).


  • lack of a homelike atmosphere
  • large group equates to less individual attention
  • schedule is less flexible
  • greater exposure to childhood illnesses
  • greater staff turnover
  • child doesn't develop as strong a bond with caregiver
Chras4's excellent write up is a great general overview of some of the childcare available today. If I may I'd like to add my experience and a couple of recommendations for parents. (I am sorry this is pretty USA specific - I'll gladly vote up anyone who can give info on other countries)

There are a couple of different kinds of Day Care Centers:

Child Development Centers generally enroll infants through five year olds and operate a 12 hour day. Emphasis is usually on building skills through play.

Day Care is for varied age groups (in California there is a separate license for infant programs) and the hours closely mirror the standard workday. Educational emphases varies.

Preschool welcomes age three through five (they often require the child to be potty trained) but will sometimes only operate half day. Emphasis is on academics and/or socialization.

The Co-Op takes various ages but requires parent participation. A parent may assist one day a week and help one Saturday a month, cleaning, gardening or organizing classrooms.

I am lucky to now have both the teacher's and the parent's perspectives, as I worked in a Corporate Child Development Center, and participated with my son in a Co-Op preschool. Both experiences were wonderful. The center I worked at strove to have the best program around, everyone who worked there was dedicated and proud. The co-op my son and I participated in was key in identifying his autistic spectrum disorder at an early age.

Here are my recommendations for finding and evaluating day care centers:

1. Check the license. Call your state's Day Care Licensing Board (usually under Child Services) and the Better Business Bureau and ask if there are any complaints against the center.

2. Take a tour. Bring a paper and pen and write down anything that bugs you - even the teeniest bit. I toured a center where there was a half full bucket of water left unattended in a toddler classroom and a pool gate left open. If you tour the beginning of the day classrooms should look inviting, at the end of the day during clean up you should smell faint bleach (a cap full of bleach to a quart of water is the best way to disinfect toys and surfaces with no residue).

3. Talk to a teacher. Or a few teachers. Do they get paid prep time? Do they get their scheduled breaks and lunch on time? Do they do any professional development (classes, conventions, workshops)? Would they send their kids to that school?

4. Watch the class in action. Are the advertised ratios maintained at all times? Does the teacher use positive language with the children or are there lots of no's? What if a child doesn't want to participate in an activity? Are children supervised and included in activities?

5. Grill the director. You will get the standard info without asking usually - teacher/child ratios, sick policies, curriculum, etc. But what about little things? What holidays do they celebrate? Christmas? Hanukah? What is the school calendar - if they close on a bank holiday you normally work, you could be stuck.

6. Look for the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) certification. State licensing is easy to get, fill out a form, endure one health inspection, pay your fee and collect your number. NAEYC certification takes three years to fully acquire with surprise inspections, curriculum, ethics and hygiene codes. If you ever have a complaint you can call NAEYC and they will send a representative to inspect and correct or report the problem to the state.

If you are looking for daycare I recommend calling the NAEYC directly (or visiting their web site) to get a list of accredited centers in your area. They also have helpful brochures about age appropriate practices in infant, young toddler, toddler, preschool and kindergarten programs.
Individual State Licensing Requirements - http://nrc.uchsc.edu/states.html
National Association for Education of Young Children -http://www.naeyc.org/
National Network for Child Care - http://www.nncc.org/homepage.html
Childcare Action Campaign - http://www.childcareaction.org/
Bright Horizons Corporate Childcare - http://www.brighthorizons.com/
The structure of child care services in Canada is pretty much the same as in the United States. There are generally, as noted by the noders above, several different ways in which a child may be cared for my someone other than the parent. However, there are two principal points I would like to bring up about the Canadian system:
  1. During the last two federal elections, child care was a moderate to major issue. Most parties agreed that a national child care program and policy was sorely needed, and that there should be more subsidized spaces in general. These government regulated child care facilities should, by everyone's estimation, be available to low-income families and single parent families in order to help/permit these people to look for and obtain regular work. Despite the fact that the public pressure and desire exists, no action has been taken to date. In fact, the number of federally regulated child care spaces has declined in six provinces over the past decade. At present, around 10% of those children in child care are in a federally regulated program. Furthermore, only 17.5% of the funding for child care facilities comes from government sources; the rest is either private concerns or fees paid by the parents.
  2. The one notable exception to this above trend is the province of Quebec. In the last couple of years, the province took the position that government-regulated child care should be accessible to all (no preferential selection based on income) and should be available at $5/day (as opposed to the other provinces, where parents pay ~$450 per month). The delivery of this child care is performed by the government organizations called les Centres de la Petite Enfance (CPE). The spaces available for children (limited to those pre-kindergarten ages) can be either in a day care setting (60-100 children) or in-home (9 children maximum for two workers).
    It is worth noting, however, that the government has not decided to make this day care universally available. That is, the waiting lists for most CPEs are on the order of 12-24 months, and as such for-profit day cares are still doing quite nicely.
In the past twelve months, the province of British Colombia has been undertaking a similar procedure, but from personal communication I know that it presently is only implemented half-way and is buried in a quagmire of administrative problems.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.