There is evidence that the number of children needing before- and after-school care is growing. Two factors are of particular importance in this growth. First, the number of single-parent families has grown at an astounding rate since the 1970s. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the number of family groups maintained by one parent grew from 3.8 million in 1970 to 11.8 million in 1998. Second, there are more mothers of school-age children in two-parent families choosing to enter the out-of-home workforce. From 1986 to 1998, the number of husband and wife couples in the workforce grew from 25.4 million to 30.6 million.

Estimates of the number of unsupervised or inadequately supervised children range from 3.5 million to 17.5 million for children between the ages of five and fourteen. The large discrepancy in estimates is mainly due to the variety of definitions. Some estimates include only children who have no supervision; others include those with no adult supervision. Still other estimates include those who are inadequately supervised, periodically unsupervised, or supervised by a parent or other adult who is emotionally or psychologically unavailable. No matter which estimate is used, it is clear that too many children do not receive the supervision that would maximize their physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual development.

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