About 50 million women of the close to 120 million women age sixteen years and older in the workforce in the United States today are working mothers. The U.S. labor force has experienced a revolution with the entry of working mothers in dramatic numbers. As recently as 1975, only onethird of women with children worked outside the home. Now, approximately 70 percent of all mothers work in this country. It’s a similar story in Canada, where about 66 percent of all women with children under the age of three work, and about 75 percent of those whose youngest child is age three to five work. The major impact of this change in the workforce is the overwhelming demand that now exists for child care workers.

As the children of working mothers move through school, there will be a need for more child care workers for supervision of beforeand after-school activities and during vacations and holidays from school. More workers are also needed because of the very high turnover rate among child care workers. Approximately one-third of all child care workers leave this profession each year. The National Women’s Law Center attributes this to the fact that child care workers are among the lowest-paid workers in the United States, with wages only slightly above the poverty threshold. This is also true in Canada, where many workers earn local minimum wages. These very important caregivers in both countries actually earn less than many pet sitters.

MANY CHOICES FOR WORKING WITH CHILDREN As the number of working mothers has increased, a need for a variety of child care arrangements has emerged. This, of course, has created many career choices that center on the care of children. Although approximately 20 percent of all families in the United States and 40 percent in Canada rely on relatives for satisfactory child care arrangements, the rest must look for help beyond their immediate family circle. The two most popular choices are child care centers and family child care homes. This chapter explores the different types of child care centers and the job opportunities they offer.
Careers in family child care homes will be investigated in Chapter 4.

HISTORY OF CHILD CARE CENTERS Before the Industrial Revolution, children were typically cared for in their homes by their families or by caregivers hired to assist family members. In the mid-1700s, factories sprouted up all over England and Scotland, and large numbers of women left their homes to work in them. This change was due largely to the invention of two machines, the spinning jenny and the water frame, which took the manufacture of textiles out of homes and into factories. Women were not able to leave their young children at home nor have the children at their sides in the factories while they were working. To solve this problem, factory owners established rooms for their workers’ children and hired untrained adults, boys, and girls to supervise the children.
These were the first child care centers. The establishment of child care centers in the United States occurred almost a hundred years later, when manufacturing became a major industry and women first joined the workforce.
Besides pioneering child care centers, Great Britain also introduced nursery schools a short time later to improve upon the care children were receiving at factory child care facilities. Robert Owen, a mill owner and social reformer, set up the first program to teach and supervise the children of factory workers and hired people with some teaching qualifications.
During World War II, women were needed to work in the factories. The U.S. government responded by passing the Lanham Act, which provided funds to set up child care centers in defense plants. At the end of the war, these centers were shut down, and many women left the workforce. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, women began returning to the workforce and the need for child care centers grew. Today, there are more than a hundred thousand centers serving young children.

In the mid-1960s, the federal government began to play a more prominent role in the care and development of young children. The Head Start program was launched to help prepare the children of poor families for school. Activities were designed to stimulate the social, emotional, mental, and physical growth of young children. Many parents of children in this program work in centers as aides or as volunteers. The Head Start program continues today. Also, the federal government began to provide some child care services for mothers receiving welfare payments who were enrolled in job training programs.

Many proposals for federally sponsored child care programs have been introduced since the 1960s in the United States and Canada. A comprehensive proposal, the Child Development Act, was passed in the U.S. Congress in 1971 but was vetoed by President Nixon. This legislation would have expanded Head Start and provided preschool education for all children who needed this help before enrolling in school. Every year child care bills are introduced in Congress; however, no comprehensive national child care plan has yet emerged. Some states have begun to offer prekindergarten programs for four-year-olds in their most disadvantaged school districts. And others are considering legislation requiring all schools to offer programs for threeand four-year-olds. A wide variety of child care programs 25 Working in Child Care Centers

CAREERS IN CHILD CARE are subsidized by federal, state, and local governments, and more will appear in the future to meet the demand for quality child care. Canada now has a Universal Child Care Benefit that will give parents C$1,200 a year per child under age six but, for the present, has rejected a plan to create muchneeded, licensed child care spaces.
During the 1980s, business and industry became aware that working mothers with young children had more absences from work and left their jobs more often owing to the responsibility of caring for their children. The problems were greatest with the mothers of preschool children. In response, employers devised child care options to help their working mothers. A few have developed both on-site and off-site child care centers. In some cases, a group of employers have joined together to provide child care for their employees. An employer may also establish a referral service to help families find child care. Many employers offer vouchers for child care or include some form of child care in their benefits packages. With research showing that employer-sponsored day care programs improve morale and cut personnel costs, more companies have started some type of child care program. This trend is expected to continue, and to accelerate, in the future.