Journal Issue: Children and Welfare Reform Volume 12 Number 1 Winter/Spring 2002
A central goal of the welfare reforms undertaken in the 1990s was to increase parents' self-sufficiency and end dependence on government benefits.1 For this goal to be realized, not just for the current generation but also for the next, attention must be paid to the early development and long-term advancement of children in welfare and working poor families. Mothers' employment gains are of little consequence to children's development unless such gains lead to improvements in children's daily environments at home, in child care, at school, or in the community.
This article focuses on the effects of welfare reform on how and where low-income children spend their days, and on the role child care can play in improving their lives. The first section reviews the history of public interest and support for child care. The second section examines patterns of child care use among low-income families, changes in family life spurred by welfare reform, and factors affecting parents' choice of care. The third section summarizes what is known about the quality of care in various settings and how the quality of care affects children's development. The fourth section discusses strategies for crafting more effective policies to advance child care options for low-income families. Finally, the article concludes with some thoughts about steps needed to help achieve the policy aim of ending the inheritance of family poverty.