Child care refers to regular nonparental care provided to children from birth to age 13 years. The U.S. child care system is a patchwork of child care centers, formal regulated and informal unregulated family child care homes, and relative or nonrelative providers in a child’s own home that serves imperfectly the often competing missions of parental labor force participation and child development. Funded largely by parental fees and only partially subsidized by state and federal programs, the contemporary U.S. system reflects a cultural perception of child-rearing as a private rather than a public good.

This entry begins with an overview of contemporary child care practice followed by a brief history of child care policy in the United States leading to the creation of the Child Care ...

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