Child care is the 21st century's biggest unsolved conundrum: children's needs have not changed, but in a world that puts a premium on paid employment and personal fulfilment, who should, who can, and who wants to meet them?
Children's wellbeing – even survival – depends as it always has on somebody taking care of them every minute of every day and night. When most mothers and fathers are in paid employment, much of the day–to–day hands–on care of children has to be done by someone else. But who is to do that caring, and who should bear the costs?
In this book Penelope Leach, a world renowned expert on child development and parenting issues and co–director of the UK's largest child care study, offers an honest evaluation of these complex issues. She considers the view points of politicians, parents, and children themselves, and summarises what international research can tell us about the effects of different kinds of care on families and children.
Economic recession lends the book additional urgency. Must employed parents work even longer hours to protect their jobs and incomes? Will governments retreat from family friendly policies such as paid parental leave and flexible working to protect small businesses? For Leach, what matters most is recognising that children's care is not just the responsibility of parents, often struggling to be in two places at once, but is intrinsic to the well–being of the whole of society. Child care is a problem not just for families, but for nations.