Family Policy and the American Safety Net shows how families adapt to economic and demographic change. Government programs provide a safety net against the new risks of modern life. Family policy includes any public program that helps families perform their four universal obligations of caregiving, income provision, shelter, and transmission of citizenship. In America, this means that child care, health care, Social Security, unemployment insurance, housing, the quality of neighborhood schools, and antidiscrimination and immigration measures are all key elements of a de facto family policy. Yet many students and citizens are unaware of the history and importance of these programs. This book argues that family policy is as important as economic and defense policy to the future of the nation, a message that is relevant to students in the social sciences, social policy, and social work as well as to the public at large.
The Reinvention of Caregiving
Given the economic changes that have taken place in family structure, one of the main functions of the family—nurturance and caregiving—is under siege. Smaller families with fewer generations present, longer life expectancies, and more mothers in the paid labor force have all resulted in a dearth of caregivers for children, older persons, and anyone with a short-term illness or a long-term disability. American families have adapted to this change in two ways. First, specialization has occurred so that there are different kinds of care for different ages and different needs: nursing homes for the elderly, childcare for preschoolers, and accommodations for persons with one type of disability or another. The second major trend is toward universalization of process ...