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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 7, 1998


January 7, 1998

Millions of Americans, struggling to be both good parents and good workers, rely on child care and after-school programs for part of each day. As the White House Conference on Child Care showed, America's working families, more than ever, are pressed to find safe, affordable care for their children.

Millions of America's children are in child care. In 1995, of the approximately 21 million infants, toddlers, and preschool children under the age of six in the U.S., more than 12.9 million children were in child care. Forty-five percent of children under age one were in child care on a regular basis. [National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education]

Children are in care for many hours each working day. In 1990, more than half of children under five with mothers in the workforce were in child care 35 hours or more each week. [National Child Care Survey, 1990]

Families struggle to afford child care. Working parents who rely on child care often have a hard time paying for it. In 1993, the average family with an employed mother and a child under five spent about $74 per week for child care for all preschoolers in the family. [U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1997] Infant care is generally more expensive: in 1995, center-based care for infants averaged $112 per week. [Cost, Quality and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers, University of Colorado at Denver, 1995] For families with children between three and five, at all income levels, child care is the second or third greatest household expense. [U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1997]

In 1993, families with annual incomes under $14,400 paying for child care for children under five years old spent 25 percent of their income on child care, compared with six percent for families with incomes of $54,000 or more.[What Does it Cost to Mind Our Preschoolers?, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Pop. Reports, 1995]

Many children are in settings that are not healthy or safe and do not promote early learning and development. Recent studies have raised concerns about the quality of care:

A four-state study of quality in child care centers found that only one in seven centers (14 percent) were rated good quality. [Cost, Quality and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers, University of Colorado at Denver, 1995] According to another study, 13 percent of regulated and 50 percent of unregulated family child care providers offer care that is inadequate. [The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care, Families and Work Institute, 1994]

In the words of one well-respected report, Many children living in poverty receive child care that, at best, does not support their optimal development and, at worst, may compromise their health and safety. [New Findings on Children, Families, and Economic SelfSufficiency, National Research Council, 1995]

The quality of child care matters. Research shows that when children are in better quality child care programs, they have stronger language, pre-mathematics, and social skills; better relationships with their teachers; and stronger self-esteem. In some instances, quality has even greater impact on children who are typically at-risk. [Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers, University of Colorado, 1995]

After-school programs are in short supply. The Bureau of the Census estimates that in 1997 38.8 million children between the ages of five and 14 lived in the U.S., of whom 24 million had parents in the workforce or school. [1994 SIPP data from the Bureau of the Census] Experts estimate that nearly five million school-age children spend time as latchkey kids without adult supervision during a typical week. [National Institute for Out-of-School Time at Wellesley College]

Good after-school programs matter. Constructive activities for children and youth are critical to enhancing their development and keeping them out of trouble. Studies show that school-age children who are left alone after school are at greater risk of truancy, risk-taking behavior, substance abuse, poor grades, and stress. [Characteristics of Eighth-Grade Students Who Initiate Self-Care in Elementary and Junior High School, Pediatrics, 1990] Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are most likely to commit violent acts or be victims themselves between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm. [OJJDP 1997]

Studies also indicate that children under adult supervision in a formal program during after-school hours show improved academic achievement and better attitudes toward school than their peers in self- or sibling-care. [Miller and Marx, 1990, in Supplement to the National Assessment of Chapter 1]