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Public Papers - 1989 - May

White House Fact Sheet on the President's Child-Care Principles

1989-05-09

Four basic principles underlie the President's approach to child care:

Parents, who are best able to make decisions about their children's care, should have the discretion to make these decisions.

Federal policy should not discriminate against parents who work at home.

Federal policies should act to increase, not decrease, the range of child care choices available to parents.

New Federal assistance should be targeted to families most in need.

Myths and Facts about Child Care Today

Myth: Religiously affiliated day care will benefit from new Federal day care programs such as the ABC bill.

Fact: As many as one-third of formal day care centers are religiously affiliated. ABC prohibits assistance ``for any sectarian purpose or activity, including sectarian worship and instruction.'' This implies that to be eligible under ABC, the child care services provided by religiously affiliated centers might be required to be indistinguishable from those provided by wholly secular providers. To meet this standard, facilities could be required by the courts or by Federal or State regulatory bodies to remove religious symbols, end the teaching of religious values and avoid such practices as prayer before meals and the singing of religious songs. Furthermore, even those centers which adhered rigorously to these standards would be subject to potential litigation over their receipt of ABC funds.

Myth: Most young children are being cared for in day care centers.

Fact: Less than 11 percent of children under 5 are cared for in child care centers. Only 46 percent of children under 5 have employed mothers. Even among those mothers who are employed, the great majority use relatives or neighbors as child care providers. For parents with young children who prefer to care for their children themselves while their spouses work, the President's proposals will shift the economics of work and child care in their favor. The President's proposals discriminate neither against day care centers nor mothers caring for children at home.

Myth: Aiding child care centers will primarily help low- and moderate-income working families.

Fact: Subsidies biased toward center-based care will naturally tend to help those who are comparatively better off. In 1986 a majority of mothers in married-couple families earning less than ,000 chose to stay at home to provide child care while less than one-third of the mothers in families making over ,000 made the same choice. Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of children in center-based care come from two-earner families.

Myth: Federal day care standards are necessary because day care is largely unregulated.

Fact: All States currently regulate day care to some extent. Every State licenses child care centers, and all but one regulate some or all family day care homes. State and local governments are best able to determine what standards are needed for child care. Federal standards, proposed in the past, will not work. Congress, realizing this, prohibited implementation of Federal standards in 1980.

Myth: Unregulated child care is unhealthy and unsafe for children.

Fact: The typical ``unregulated'' day care provider is a mother caring for one or two other neighborhood children, along with her own child. In contrast, in day care centers, the average ratio of children to staff is five to one. According to an ABT Associates report, ``The National Day Care Home Study,'' unregulated family child care is ``stable, warm, and stimulating . . . it caters successfully to the developmentally appropriate needs of children in care; parents who use family day care report it satisfactorily meets their child care needs . . . [the study's] observers were consistently impressed by the care they saw regardless of regulatory status.''

The ABC Bill Does Not Meet the President's Principles

The Senate is likely to turn soon to the ``Act for Better Child Care,'' sponsored by Senator Dodd. This bill, ``ABC,'' does not meet the President's principles for increasing child care options and parental choice:

Parental choice: ABC puts its trust in government, not parents. No money goes directly to parents. All money goes to the States. The States then fund providers, not parents, through grants, contracts, and certificates that they, not parents, arrange or approve. It is the States, not parents, who have the ultimate decision-making power on the care children will receive under ABC.

Encourages options: ABC imposes Federal day care standards on all providers who receive public assistance. All States currently regulate day care to some degree, ensuring a healthy and safe environment for children. These costly Federal requirements will put some current child care providers out of business, keep potential providers from offering care, and drive up the cost of care available for all parents. Parents who want their children to be taught and guided by the religious values that are central to their lives would not be able to receive assistance: All caregivers, including relatives, are prohibited from engaging in sectarian activities, worship, or instruction in providing services under ABC.

In fact, parents could not use their ABC eligibility to have anyone other than a grandparent, aunt, or uncle care for their children unless (1) the State rules in each individual case that the person was an eligible child care provider, (2) the person and his/her home meets Federal standards, and (3) the person submits to governmental grant, contract and paperwork requirements.

Nondiscrimination: ABC serves two-parent families only if both parents are employed, perpetuating the discrimination against two-parent families in which one parent stays at home to care for the children.

Targeted to families most in need: ABC is not well targeted and would serve only a fraction of families most in need. Families with incomes as high as 4 times the poverty level are eligible for ABC. Only a small number of eligible children would actually receive care under ABC -- 6 percent in 1990 according to the sponsors' estimates, and there is no guarantee that they would be from families most in need. Only one million children, the sponsors say, would receive child care services from the States -- far less than the number of children in the 3.5 million families that would initially benefit from the President's tax credit proposals.

Note: The fact sheet also contained information concerning the President's visit to the Shiloh Child Development Center.

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