In Choosing to Care, Kyle E. Ciani examines the long history of interactions between parents and social reformers from diverse backgrounds in the development of social welfare programs, particularly childcare, in San Diego, California. Ciani explores how a variety of people—from destitute parents and tired guardians to benevolent advocates and professional social workers—connected over childcare concerns in a city that experienced tremendous demographic changes caused by urbanization, immigration, and the growth of a local U.S. military infrastructure from 1850 to 1950.
Choosing to Care examines four significant areas where San Diego’s programs were distinct from, and contributed to, the national childcare agenda: the importance of the transnational U.S.–Mexico border relationship in creating effective childcare programs; the development of vocational education to curtail juvenile delinquency; the promotion of nursery school education; and the advancement of an emergency daycare program during the Great Depression and World War II. Ciani shows how children from families in unstable situations, especially children from Native American, Asian, Mexican-descent, African American, and impoverished Anglo families, challenged a social reform system that defined care as both social control and behavioral regulation.
Choosing to Care incorporates a broader definition of childcare to include efforts by governmental and organizational bodies and persons to maintain and nurture the physical, mental, and social health and development of minors when parents and guardians cannot do so. It offers a more complex understanding of how multiple avenues and resources established social welfare in San Diego and other West Coast cities.