cover image Child Care Today: Getting It Right for Everyone

Child Care Today: Getting It Right for Everyone

Penelope Leach, . . Knopf, $24.95 (350pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4256-2

Venerable British child psychologist Leach, author of the classic Your Baby & Child , addresses the overarching question of who is caring for today's children. Based on current research (including her own longitudinal study conducted by Families, Children & Child Care in the U.K.), Leach reports that nonparental child care is an indisputable fact of modern life, and that “discussing whether it is bad for children is no more useful than discussing whether we would all be better off without television or the Internet.” The question, instead, is “How can we make any part of children's lives that they spend in child care good for them?” Urging the abandonment of outdated 1950s standards—when most mothers cared for their children at home—Leach blames attitude even more than scanty financial resources for lack of progress. She examines numerous child care options, from au pairs to day care centers, probing the difficult, exhausting decisions that parents face. She also compares and contrasts the child care practices of various countries, noting, for instance, that the U.S. has no mandatory paid maternity leave while in Sweden mothers are offered 480 days with 80% of their monthly wage. Until we embrace children as everyone's responsibility, Leach insists, the “working/caring conundrum” will continue to plague parents, and society will forgo the high dividends that result when an investment is made in quality child care. (Jan.)