A study release Wednesday by the University of Michigan shows that, on average, children age 3-12 spent 4 to 6 hours more per week with their parents in 1997 than they did 20 years ago, in 1981. They gained some 6 hours with their mothers and some 4 hours with their fathers. This held true whether both parents worked or not. Children spent an average of 23 hours per week with their fathers and 27 hours a week with their mothers. News reports touted the results of the study as a counterweight to other recent reports that paint a rather bleak picture of day care in America. One study found a correlation between too many hours in day care and bullying behavior in children. Another study warned that staff turnover in day care centers is high, and replacement staffers tend to be less skilled than their predecessors are. However, the very children who are most likely to suffer the adverse effects of day care-the children of single mothers-did not see any increase in time with their parents. Moreover, the study noted that at least some of the increased time with parents is spent in the car on the way to and from the numerous scheduled activities in which children participate these days. Nevertheless, the news is good, particularly for the children of married parents.
Foster Care & Adoption Information Revolution
This summer, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will unveil a long-awaited database of foster care and adoption figures from 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The foster care system, jointly funded with state and federal funds but run by the states, has long been notorious for the unreliability of its supporting data. State foster care systems, overwhelmed with the task of processing increasing caseloads, have of necessity kept the reporting of data to HHS as a low priority. As a result, federal records have long been plagued with missing or incomplete data from a majority of states and other jurisdictions. More importantly, foster children eligible for adoption have in many cases been forced to wait much longer than necessary to be permanently adopted. Recently, however, motivated by a combination of more stringent federal reporting requirements and increased funding for technical assistance, most states have vastly improved their databases. Although some observers remain somewhat skeptical about the accuracy and accountability of the data reported, most acknowledge that the new system represents a whole new era in the collection of information about foster care and adoption.