Single Mothers and their Children: Childcare Reform

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Child care is a major concern of single mothers in general, but particular for low income single mothers. We understand that cost of childcare proportionally increases as mothers’ income decreases, and that this both encourages mothers to work more frequently as well as discourages it due to the costs associated with it. This double standard in child care for poor, working single mothers is a large concern among mothers because access to affordable child care would allow for full time work or schooling, neither of which is a result of current child care access. In addition, it would provide children room to grow within a group and could potentially take them away from high risk behaviors, provides the mother with social capital, and gives resources of bridging social capital to children from an early age.  One solution to the child care issue is outlined in Child Care Programs of the Future review Sweden’s child care program – from the research we have done thus far, were it implemented in the United States it has the potential to dramatically assist low income families with much needed resources and begin the upward climb out of poverty.

As we have already cited, the cost of child care is a major concern among low income single mothers. Where there is no husband, cohabitating partner, or elder child to assist the mother, she is left to either reach out to friends, family, neighbors, or others for help. In cases where the mother does not live nearby family or friends, and especially in situations where there is either distrust among neighbors or the women do not know their neighbors, child care is one of the only viable solutions to raising a child and providing a stable income. Because the cost of childcare is high, the result is childcare used by the middle-upper class while low-income single mothers are unable afford the care. To counteract this, Sweden’s childcare program, at least that of the 1970s, was subsidized by the federal and local governments, justified by the claim that childcare was an investment. Individuals, depending on family size, class, and income were then asked to pay the ten to fifteen percent difference.

Although there are many private childcare programs in the United States, they tend to be more expensive than open enrollment institutions, which are still quite expensive when we consider that single mothers are three times more likely to reside in the “crisis” category below the poverty line (1980). Flat rates in childcare neglect the various economic situations in which single mothers reside – whether this be middle class or low-income, this is the group that would benefit most from childcare programs. The solution promoted in literature during the 1970s cited that Sweden’s childcare system was application based and that the cost of childcare fluctuated in proportion to the income of single parent homes. In particular, the system gave priority to single parent homes.

While Republican Motherhood, or the responsibility of women to raise and nurture young patriots, was emphasized through much of the early 20th century, we recognize a discrepancy between the reliance of government on mothers and the reliance of mothers on government. There is very little involvement of the government in regards to nurturing the success of children apparent from the lack of educational funding and silence on childcare. Citing the cooperation of Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare with municipal districts addresses the desire and potential need of a similar board dedicated to this cause in the United States.

While there may have been hesitancies to move forward with government sponsored childcare due to the Red Scare, there were voices advocating for reform in government that would provide greater access to affordable childcare. Lest we forget, the push for affordable childcare is not so the mother may be alleviated of the responsibility to care for her child – rather, childcare would allow single mothers the opportunity to work full time and/or attend school and care for other matters that would give both she and the child greater income and stability.



Child care programs of the future; National business woman. Vol. 53, Iss. 11 (1972) pg. 4-5.


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