Elizabeth Adamson

Postgraduate Research

Graduation Year: 2015

Research Area: Care

Research Topic: Cultures of in-home child care: Nannies, migration and early childhood education and care policy in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada
Supervisors: Prof Deb Brennan, HonAdjA/Prof Fiona Williams OBE

Description: This study examines the place of in-home child care, commonly referred to as care by nannies, in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada since the 1970s. In contrast to childminding or family day care provided in the home of the carer, in-home care takes place in the child’s home. Once considered the preserve of the wealthy, demand for in-home child care has increased in response to changes in the labour market and governments have, to varying degrees, incorporated it into wider policy settings. Governments increasingly justify expenditure on early childhood education and care (ECEC) by reference to the dual objectives of enhancing early childhood development and supporting parental employment. This liberal approach to social investment has been characterised by the introduction of market mechanisms in the delivery of ECEC, and other social care services. In-home care sits somewhat uneasily in the child development frame since providers typically are not required to meet the same standards as mainstream ECEC providers. Informed by theories of institutionalism and welfare regimes literature, the thesis uses the concept of ‘care culture’ to examine how in-home child care has been repositioned within ECEC and broader welfare state policies. It traces the emergence of in-home child care and compares how it is supported by government policy through funding and regulation. The research extends beyond the ECEC domain to consider how migration policy facilitates the provision of child care in the private home. Using a mix of qualitative research methods, including analysis of policy details in each country, government and sector documents and 60 interviews with key policy stakeholders across three countries, it shows how three liberal countries with common policy structures and discourses, in practice, developed different approaches to in-home child care. It illustrates the implications of these policies for families and care workers. It proposes that these differences are shaped by both structural and normative understandings about appropriate forms of care that cut across gender, class/socioeconomic status and race/migration. Overall, it argues that greater attention needs to be given to the way child care work in the private home is situated across ECEC and migration policy.