For years we have ignored the topic of rural child care. This, in spite the fact that nearly one out of every four children in the U.S belongs to a nonmetropolitian area. As a result, studies on rural children are few and far between. Rural children experience poverty at the same rate as do urban children. However, it has been observed that the link between rural residence and economic disadvantage is particularly strong. Some of the major highlights of rural child care are given as follows.
- Center-based Care : Rural child care is significantly different from urban child care. Center-based care that is quite popular in the urban American families is hardly seen in rural areas. Rural parents also prefer child care by relatives to center-based care. As a result, only 25% of rural children are in group care. Moreover, most of these centers are for specific population segments and children from working poor and middle class families are hardly seen to be a part of this group. Also, the quality of education provided at these centers is also substantially lower than that of their urban counterparts. All this establishes the fact that rural children have lesser educational opportunities than urban and suburban children.
- Family-based care : Most rural children are educated by a variety of arrangements provided by family, relatives and other siblings. Relative care is indeed a preferred system by most rural families. Numerous statistics have firmly established the fact that rural families generally employ multiple arrangements of child care. Moreover, most of the child care is not regulated and hence, its quality is unknown.
- Potential strengths of rural child care: One cannot ignore the fact that there are many potential strengths unique to rural child care. Rural child care emphasizes more on community connectedness and promoting formal, personal and collaborative relationships. Collective orientation and cultural congruence are features that are unique to rural care education. As a result, a child who has had rural child care is likely to be more stable than one who has had urban child care.
- Challenges faced by rural child care practitioners: Some of the problems faced by rural child care practitioners are quite unique. Some of these problems are transportation, snow removal, lack of communication opportunities with children's parents, limited resources for assistance or training, low fees due to underemployment and problems due to gossip network. The resource material available to them is also substantially lower than urban child care practitioners. One needs to fully understand these problem and then try to come up with solutions pertaining to the problems of rural child care.
- Points to keep in mind for Policymakers: Child care legislation seems to have an explicit urban bias. This is evident in the numerous funding policies and how they depend on predominantly urban child care factors, such as population size and density. The stringent professional qualification requirements of child care practitioners in urban areas can negatively affect the child care programs in rural ares. Demands for paperwork and eligibility guidelines need to be revised. The policymakers have to understand that rural child care has requirements and conditions that are totally unique. An effective policy in an urban area may be totally counter-productive in a rural setting.
- Need for new rural approaches: Alternative models for the popularly followed relative-care model are required. Home-based visiting option may meet the needs of rural child care. Provision of training programs and resource material for rural child care practitioners is of utmost importance.
Rural America's population is rising at a steady rate and so are the requirements of rural child care. It is about time that interest is taken in the needs, requirements, problems and solution of rural child care in America.