In Support of a Relationship-Based Approach to Practice with Infants and Toddlers in the United States
Until about the last two decades, American infants and toddlers were cared for and educated almost exclusively by their mothers or very close relatives or neighbors. This was typically done in the child’s home and, of course, payment rarely if ever exchanged hands. It is becoming increasingly typical for children under the age of three years to receive some type of care and education services at the hands of paid professionals and, although this sometimes still occurs in family homes, it now also happens in a variety of other settings (Vandell, 2004). Nearly half of all infants and toddlers in the United States are in some form of regular non-parental care by the time they are nine months old (Kreader, Ferguson, & Lawrence, 2005), for an average of 32 hours per week (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). As Dombro and Lerner (2006) informed us, “Most families today share the care of their babies and toddlers with someone else-often an early childhood professional, a teacher, or a family child care provider. Each family and professional must learn to work and make decisions together to support the child’s healthy development and to ensure the family’s well-being” (p. 29).