The History of Daycare in the Workplace

Many companies offer childcare vouchers in lieu of on-site childcare services.
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Countries outside the U.S. were the first to develop daycare facilities associated with the mother's workplace. In countries like France and Italy, daycare facilities are part of the regular public school system. The first daycare centers appeared in France during the 1840s and were recognized by its government in 1869. It would be nearly three-quarters of a century later before the U.S. would have a daycare center at the mother's place of work.

Early Daycare History

    The beginning of daycare in the U.S. was woven into the early welfare and reform movements of the mid-19th century. Many of the early daycare nurseries grew out of the need for someone to look after the children of disadvantaged immigrant workers. Jane Addams, winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize, opened a settlement house in Chicago in 1889 – Hull House – that provided much-needed assistance and care to immigrants. It included resident quarters, a dining hall, a library, a salon and a nursery school that provided childcare on behalf of its immigrant working parents. Some residents worked at the Hull House itself, while many worked outside the settlement house, which also provided classes and training for adults.

Shipyard Daycare Centers

    The first daycare centers located at the mother's workplace were built during World War II when "Rosie the Riveter" went to work instead of her husband who was busy fighting the war. In 1943, the Kaiser Company opened up daycare centers at its shipyards in Richmond, California, and Portland, Oregon. The centers, built by owner Henry Kaiser, were open 24 hours a day, had a nurse on site for sick children and provided hot meals for mothers to take home at the end of the day. Large windows looked out on the shipyards, so children could watch the shipbuilding. The intent of the centers was to reduce mother's absenteeism and keep her at work, but the centers were closed once the war ended.

Corporate-Sponsored Daycare

    The Stride-Rite Corporation, a company that has produced children's shoes since 1892, began their daycare services in the early '70s. Today it's grown to include an inter-generational center, which includes services for the elderly parents of workers as well as for toddlers and preschoolers. Other companies have followed the actions of Stride-Rite, but opened centers much later. Many companies today offer childcare vouchers in lieu of on-site childcare services.

Top Companies

    CNN Money listed its opinion of the top 100 companies, which includes 33 that provide childcare services on site to its workers. The top five companies with the cheapest on-site services rated by CNN include the SAS Institute, AFLAC, Baptist Health South Florida, Bright Horizons and Memorial Health. Many companies also offer plans that allow parents to receive vouchers for childcare services or hold money out of their paychecks to pay for such services.

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