Brief History of Childcare in the USA

Childcare has evolved considerably throughout the past two centuries in the United States. The concept of childcare never received as much attention as it does today, yet there are still many issues that childcare services need to attend to.

During the early 19th century, slavery was still widespread in the country, and households employed African women to take care of children. If children’s parents were wealthy, they could afford slaves to take care of maintenance or basic household chores.

On 6 December 1865, the political landscape changed drastically with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This new law prohibited slavery in the USA.

The first official nursery school in the USA opened its doors in 1854. The Nursery School for Children of Poor Women was opened in partnership with the Children’s Hospital of New York City.

Hull House established the first private day nursery for immigrants in 1889. It would still be many years before immigrants would be treated as equals in the employment sector. During the Great Depression of 1929, many employment agencies and programs pushed Latina and Black workers into domestic and childcare jobs to keep them out of other professions.

After the Lanham Act in 1941, the government saw the establishment of public childcare facilities that could be utilized by the public. This was an especially important development as more mothers started to enter the job market. Women slowly became less occupied with domestic and childcare duties and started to focus more on their careers.

In 1965 President Johnson launched the Head Start program that would reach more than half a million children and families, and communities across the country. This program would eventually grow to support migrant farmworker families, and services would extend to children with disabilities in 1972.

During the 1980s and early 2000s, the USA instituted several initiatives to make childcare more affordable for low-income families. The Act for Better Child Care (ABC Bill) was a federal program that would cut childcare expenditures and promote access to childcare for low-income families.

Congress implemented the Child Care and Development Block Grant in 2014, ensuring childcare continued to get the necessary funding and assistance in the country. Today, the USA acknowledges the importance of childcare programs, and many non-profit and government organizations host programs to support these initiatives.

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