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In The Business of Child Care.

In The Business of Child Care, Judith D. Auerbach (Praeger Publishers, 1988) 154 pages Reviewer: Kathleen S. McNichol, MBA, CPCU, Risk Management and Insurance Program, La Salle University

Judith Auerbach's In The Business of Child Care explores the historical posture of society toward working women and the child care support extended to these families. She approaches the issue of child care availability, not from the nature and meaning of parent-child relationships, but from a sociological perspective. Auerbach explores the question, how do we as a society reconcile our traditional ideology of mothering with the fact that today a majority of women work outside the home? Auerbach provides a clear and accurate picture of the concerns faced by families with two working parents. These concerns are echoed by a recent cover story in Time Magazine where child care is compared to a game of Russian roulette: parents constantly wondering if their child is safe and secure.(1)

The book is divided into two major sections. Part I traces the emergence of employer-supported child care. Most early initiatives in the child care area were related to women's role in the work force during World War II. Employers set up on-premises child care programs in some cases while others initiated cooperatives between businesses and government. A distressing reality was the quick removal of these supports once the war ended. Women were expected to retreat from the workplace. The employment situation has changed drastically from the 1940's. The need for quality child care programs today is evidenced by the many women who are in the workforce either by necessity or actively pursuing careers. Auerbach notes that one reason for turning to employer-sponsored programs is the stigma attached to government programs which are often geared toward "remedial" or "deficient" families. Later she mentions the government's poor showing and lack of success as further reason for employers to be involved.

Once the rationale for employer-sponsored programs is set forth, Part II of the book discusses how employers have recently participated to meet child care needs of their employees. Employer involvement may consist of direct services, information, financial assistance, and alternative work schedules. One of the major strengths of the book is the in-depth discussion of these alternatives. Auerbach supplements these discussions through extensive interviews with employers regarding provisions for child care.

Auerbach does not set out to convince employers that they should take the responsibility for easing the child care burden from working parents. Instead, she provides a very balanced picture by looking at the issue from both the perspective of the employer and employee. Some alternatives presented are not costly, such as a flexible work schedule, but take at least some of the burden from the parent attempting to juggle the responsibilities of work and home. Other options such as an on-site day care facility require a major investment of time and money. Auerbach discusses in detail many of the benefits and pitfalls a company may experience when some form of child care support is provided to their employees. Advantages identified include higher productivity resulting from higher employee morale, attraction and retention of qualified employees, and a sense of a commitment to certain social objectives. The major disadvantage for most employers is the cost factor. Some very well utilized on-premises child care programs are no longer operational because of the cash drain. Success of these efforts seems to shadow the business cycle with companies maintaining the program during economic prosperity but retreating during economic slow downs. Perhaps this suggests that some form of government subsidy is necessary to smooth out fluctuations in operations.

Auerbach sees employer sponsorship of child care as sginificant for several reasons. She says " . . . it inadvertently poses a direct challenge to the ideology of mothering, and in doing so, contributes to the potential for greater opportunities for women". She supports these contentions with comments made by employers she interviews. Just as recent happenings indicate the continued existence of racial prejudice in the work place, so exists a lingering resentment toward women in the work force. Auerbach rightly suggests that this resentment may be hindering efforts to provide better child care alternatives.

(1)"Shameful Bequests to the Next Generation," Time Magazine October 8, 1990, page 44.
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Author:McNichol, Kathleen S.
Publication:Journal of Risk and Insurance
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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