I was unfortunate enough to have read a recent article entitled "Loathing Daycare" by Karen De Coster. While I respect the author’s right to her opinion, I do believe that she is off base to some degree. Ms. De Coster writes in her opening “Something unfashionable became fashionable during the early1980’s, and I’m not talking about greed, junk bonds or Ronald Reagan. But rather, this is something that is truly detestable, yet is a part of American culture every bit as much as Saturday morning cartoons (or) Sunday church. The fad that I speak of is child daycare”. Does this woman live in the same country as I do? I don’t believe that Parent’s today place their children in daycare to be “fashionable”. Daycare is a necessity for working class America. I disagree that the need for childcare has developed during the last twenty years. According the National Network for Childcare in an article entitled “Childcare in the United States: Yesterday and Today by Marlys Ann Boschee, Ed. D. Associate Professor University of South Dakota and Geralyn M. Jacobs, Ed.D. Assistant Professor University of South Dakota there has been a substantial increase in the labor force among women who have children under the age of 18 during the last half-century. My question is what about those men and women who are single parent households? Are these individuals supposed to receive Welfare and have the Government provide for their children? What does that teach the children? That is the real issue here…the children.
Quality childcare has been a source of criticism and controversy for many years. Through time and education we are learning that individuals caring for children on a daily basis are in need of training and regulating as with any other health related field. Nothing is without it’s pro’s and con’s. To blame a whole working class of people for the current state of today’s youth does an injustice to those of us who take pride in our career choice. For most of us being a Childcare Provider is a profession, not just a source of income.
Ms. De Coster also states in her article that “parents are entrusting their children to strangers, strangers that have provided them with a babysitting rate that was probably cheaper than the other daycare centers they visited upon. At these centers, young people are paid low wages and who are, typically, poorly trained to provide childcare. The childcare may be lax, it may be inattentive (or) simply be abusive, but it may be difficult for parents to gauge the overall quality of services.” I will not presume to speak for everyone in the daycare field, however I can say that in the State of New York to operate a Family Daycare Home you must adhere to the regulations set forth by the Office of Children and Family Services. Among these regulations you will need to be fingerprinted, have a criminal history check done on yourself and anyone over the age of 18 living in your household. You need to describe a health and safety program, emergency program and what you plan on teaching the children during the day. For anyone who believes that a Childcare Provider sits on the couch eating bon-bons and watching soap operas while the children are running wild are sadly misinformed. As far as childcare providers being “strangers”, these daycare centers and homes are operated in the communities where the children reside. I firmly encourage the parents to bring the children over to daycare a few times before they start coming on a regular basis so that daycare isn’t a scary place for the child. When a child goes to school the teacher they have at the beginning of a school year is usually a “stranger”, does this mean we don’t send our children to school any longer?
As far as being able to gauge the quality of services that a provider offers, that’s what research is all about. You don’t just dump a child in daycare and go on your merry little way. Any self-respecting childcare provider would not allow this to happen. A childcare provider that takes pride in their business will outline their program for you. They will have policies and procedures, as well as contracts and forms to help in the daily running of the business. They will be able to tell you what to expect and what they expect from you. As well as it is the parent’s responsibility to “drop in” and see how things go during the day. It is very important for Childcare Providers and Parents to work as a team with the child being the first priority.
Being in a daycare setting can be very beneficial to child, especially if that child doesn’t have siblings at home. Children learn a lot from daycare and not how to be juvenile delinquents. A child in daycare is learning how to socialize among his peers. They are learning problem solving techniques, as well as fundamental building blocks to education. They achieve developmental milestones and are encouraged daily to achieve these milestones. I am not about to say that every child would benefit from going to daycare, however for those children who do attend daycare it is not the “hellish environment” that some critics would claim it to be. I can honestly say that I am as proud of my daycare children for their goals and achievements as I am my own children.
While I agree that daycare should not be a substitute for parenting, thank God we have people in this field that generally care about children in society today and want to teach them and care for them. Can you imagine where the children would be if we didn’t? For those that think it would force parents to look after their own children I don’t believe this to be true. You cannot force someone to be a parent. While I agree that it is a choice to become a parent or not, realistically situations do happen and unplanned pregnancies are a very real part of life today.
I believe that there is always room for improvement in anything. The daycare situation in this country is far from perfect, however it’s better than it was twenty years ago or even five years ago. It is an ever-changing and evolving institution that through practice, education and training will only continue to improve.
To the critics of childcare I say instead of debasing a working class of people, work with them and improve on what you think is so detestable. I invite you all to join a provider for a day to see exactly what goes on in childcare.
To the Childcare providers out there I commend you. The career you have chosen does not have great financial rewards. For most of us we don’t have 401K plans, medical or dental benefits, we do however have the knowledge that we have made a difference in the lives of the children we have touched and to me that is a much greater reward.
Let us remember that the real issue in all this criticism and controversy is the children. Together we can raise educated, respectful and responsible children.