Quality Child Care Matters

By Catherine M. Pruissen

A growing number of families need supplementary child care - that is, care provided by someone other than a parent. The reasons are well known: 51% of mothers with children under one year of age, and 63% of mothers with the children age 3-4 work part or full-time. Single parent families headed by fathers add yet another dimension. These youngsters need reliable, nurturing, affectionate child care to thrive.

The value of good child care is well documented. Early learning experiences that help build resilience, social skills, and the ability to keep learning have social and economic benefits for everyone - children, parents, employers and society as a whole - both now and in the future.

On the other hand, indifferent child care leads to poor outcomes for children. Intellectual and social development is likely to be stunted. Poor quality care can hamper what and how well children learn. Low standards of hygiene and safety in poor quality settings lead to injury and illness for children.

Inadequate care affects parents and employers as well, resulting in absenteeism, tardiness, and low productivity. 14 % of employees simply quit their jobs. The cost to retrain a single employee is estimated to be one and one-half times the employees annual salary.

The Value Of Good Care

The value of good child care cannot be understated, yet far too many children continue to be denied quality care. Many children spend their formative years in settings that are unsafe or only custodial. Parents are being lured into accepting listings of caregivers from various caregiver groups without the support and information they need to properly access a provider or facility. Still others simply choose the first caregiver or facility they come across based on price and convenience. We spend more time choosing a vehicle or for that matter a pet, than we do choosing a quality child care setting.

Parents know what they want from child care. A study conducted by Child Care Aware, an ongoing public awareness campaign sponsored by the Dayton Hudson foundation and other valuable child care organizations in the U.S. points out that parents are highly concerned about quality, about the basic physical safety and security of their children, about positive emotional and learning experiences, about affection and fair discipline, about caregiver turnover. Sadly though, parents are less concerned about how to choose a child care setting that would produce these outcomes. They emphasize "instinct" and "gut reaction" when choosing providers. Yet many are dissatisfied with their current child care arrangements or have experienced poor quality care in the past. Some tell horror stories of infants being scared to go to a facility, hours spent in passive activities, or children left soiled or unattended.

"The problems are exacerbated for new parents, who may lack reliable contacts who can recommend good care, knowledge about what is reasonable to expect, and the perspective that comes from greater parenting experience," the report says.

The resulting trial and error way of looking for child care poses obvious risks for children. But it doesn't have to be that way. child care online maintains a wealth of practical data on the question of quality. The knowledge base, including a variety of workbooks and publications, provide simple, widely-agreed-upon guidelines for achieving quality.

The problem is that public support for building a child care infrastructure is dangerously low. It is limited mainly to parents of young children who face the issue every day. Many of those believe they can go it alone, or that to pay for information on how to select a quality caregiver or child care program is foolhardy. Going it alone is not only unnecessarily difficult and stressful, it places children in jeopardy. The cost of quality child care is high - but the cost of not investing is far greater.

The Challenges

The challenges are clear. "Children are not just another special interest group," says Child Care Aware. Parents, employers and the community at large need to focus on what constitutes quality child care. Parents need to know how to find it, caregivers need to know how to provide it, and employers need to be willing to support their employees in their efforts. Not only does the availability of affordable, high-quality child care affect the well-being of the majority of families, it affects the bottom line of every business in the city.

child care online has responded to these challenges with publications and library files that enable families and children to thrive, our economy to grow and prosper, and our future to remain secure. Parents and employers need to ask themselves what price they put on their child's safety and well-being. The cost of one fast food meal alone is more than the cost of an invaluable workbook or manual that would help offset the costs of a lengthy consultations when poorly-chosen child care arrangements fall apart.

In the words of John DeShano, President, Levi Strauss & Co. (Canada) Inc., "Today's workers are raising tomorrow's work force. But the responsibility for equipping young people with the skills and knowledge they need to build productive, independent lives should not be borne by parents alone. All of us - businesses, government, educators and the community - must share the commitment. For in today's' intensively competitive market place - where knowledge and creativity are the engines of economic growth - we all have a direct stake in the education and development of our children."


Why Child Care Matters: Preparing Young Children For A More Productive America
A Statement by the Research Committee of the Committee for Economic Development
Committee for Economic Development
477 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Work and Family: The Crucial Balance
Ontario Women's Directorate
Ministry of Community and Social Services

Child Care: Quality is the Issue
By Elizabeth Ehrlich for Child Care Aware
an ongoing public awareness and consumer education campaign sponsored by the Dayton Hudson Foundation.