- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

When it comes to caring for babies, toddlers and preschoolers whose mothers work, “Nanas” and “Pop-Pops” are still tops, new federal data show.

In 2005, grandparents were the primary caregivers for 19 percent of 11.3 million young children whose mothers worked, the Census Bureau said in its report, “Who’s Minding the Kids: Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005,” released yesterday.

Fathers were a close second, acting as the primary caregiver for 17 percent of the children under 5.

In addition to dads and grandparents, other relatives, such as siblings, aunts and uncles, were primary caregivers for 6 percent of young children. Another 4 percent were cared for primarily by their working mothers.

The popularity of “staying with Grandma and Grandpa” is not surprising.

“Historically, grandparents have stepped in and helped raise grandchildren and done a lot of care,” said Amy Goyer, national coordinator of the AARP Foundation Grandparenting Program. “As mothers have gone to work more and more, I think grandparents have stepped in even more, and we hear even of grandparents — particularly grandmothers — retiring earlier and moving to be closer to grandchildren so they can help provide that care.”

Grandparents “also want their life and their retirement as they planned it,” Ms. Goyer added. “But they want to balance that with being with their grandchildren. They want to be that amazing person in their grandchild’s life.”

In addition to being primary caregivers for young children, grandparents are often pinch-hitters: When parents were asked to list all providers for their children in the past month, the portion of children cared for by grandparents rose to 30 percent, said Census Bureau analyst Lynda Laughlin.

Roughly half of young children with working mothers are cared for primarily by nonrelatives.

In 2005, 24 percent of young children were in organized facilities, such as day care centers, preschools and federal Head Start centers. Another 12 percent went to “family day care,” where the child went to the provider’s home, and 4 percent stayed at home with a nonrelative, such as a nanny or au pair.

Over time, parents seem to have reconsidered using home-based care: Between 1985 and 2005, the number of young children primarily using “family day care” fell 22 percent to 12 percent.

The decline in use of family child care could be because there are fewer home-based providers, said Nikki Darling-Kuria, spokeswoman for the National Association for Family Child Care.

It also could be because some parents are gravitating to preschools for early education programs. This is a misperception, though, as professional home-based child care offers early education too, said Ms. Darling-Kuria, who runs a child-care business in West Virginia.

Family child care has “tremendous value” to parents, she added, because they are usually located in the parents’ neighborhoods; welcome children of mixed ages, including siblings; charge reasonable rates; and offer continuous care from the same staff.

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