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Child care enterprise can be a vehicle for community-based economic development. Beyond the critical goal of child care service, day care as an enterprise can help build capacity for job creation and entrepreneurship in the inner city and in disadvantaged communities. Stable child care institutions with quality jobs can sound a counterpoint to the feminization of poverty. The demand for child care services is substantial and growing. In single parent families and in households with two working parents, day care is essential to enable parents to work or go to school. Further, high quality early childhood programs can have a positive impact on child development.

But child care teachers face the dual obstacle of a public attitude that devalues their work and a harsh economic environment that relegates child care enterprise to the margin. The economic and social reality for day care centers too often means low-wage jobs for women, with few benefits and little opportunity for advancement.

In any child care enterprise, the quality of care for the children substantially depends on the caregivers and on the quality of their work life. The quality of work, in turn, requires respect for the workers and sufficient resources to provide them with decent wages, benefits, and job security. The challenge, then, for a community economic development approach is two-fold. First, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, child care centers need to forge linkages beyond their own enterprises to external institutions with available resources. Second, they need to transform those resources into a corporate culture that values the work force and balances staff interests with the needs of the children and parents.

Part I of this article describes the contours of the child care industry and underlying societal values that keep it at the economic margin. Part II locates child care in a community economic development context, with attention to child care employment and theories about women and work. Part III describes selected enterprise models, all of which involve child care centers strengthened by creative linkage with other institutions and one model that empowers staff through a participatory culture and worker ownership.

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Georgetown Law Journal



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