From the time I was six, both of my parents worked outside the home. The day care I attended took me to school and picked me up every day. When I was there, we played many games and went outside a lot of the time. I remember there was one teacher taking care of at least 20 children. Often times, after day care, my grandparents picked me up. We would go over to their house until my mom got off of work. I wished that I was home more often, or that I could go straight home after school. So many parents are missing moments of their children’s lives because they are letting other people take care of their children.
There certainly are situations that necessitate a mother working outside the home; times when there is no other option. But how many parents simply drop off their children without even a second thought? Do you know who is watching and interacting with your children while you are gone? Does that day care meet your children’s needs? And at the end of the day when picking up your children from day care, do you take the time to really be with your children. Do you make sure that happens every day?
Quality Daycare: What Are We Really Focusing On?
“More than 60% of families in the United States with children ages 5 to 14 years have mothers who are in the labor force” (National Institute of Child Health, 2004, p.280). Since 1999, 72 %of single mothers have gone into the work force with 50% working full time and 18% working part time. Because of this increase in mothers working in the last few decades, there is a higher demand for child care services. With so many children in day care, it becomes particularly crucial that parents direct their full attention to the type and the quality of day care they place their children in.
Suzanne W. Helburn and Carolle Howes (1996) explain:
“The CQO study indicated that about 86% of the centers in the study provided mediocre or poor-quality services. Only 14% of the centers surveyed met levels of process quality that were high enough to support children’s development. Twelve percent were judged to be of such poor quality that children’s basic health and safety needs were only partly met and few learning experiences were provided. Quality in the rest (74%) of the centers was judged mediocre. Care for infants and toddlers was particularly poor. Only 8% of classrooms serving infants were rated high quality; fully 40% were judged low quality. At least half the infant and toddler classrooms observed had poor general health practices.” (pp. 66-67)
Day care should be a place that fosters the learning and development of children. The teacher should be engaged in focused teaching and interacting with the children instead of just allowing children to run around. If the teacher to children ratio is too large, that becomes a difficult task for even the best teacher. Some care givers haven’t been educated about child development and don’t understand how to handle many situations such as crying, throwing a tantrum or running around wildly. In an Illinois study, more than 40 percent parents of low-income didn’t think a license was of importance to their child’s provider (Helbrum & Howes, 1996, p.70).
Unfortunately, many parents’ attention is directed toward the cost of the childcare rather than on the quality. It isn’t enough to just find a place, but it needs to be the right place. It has to be somewhere where their children’s needs are being met and it can never be forgotten that you have literally entrusted your child’s life to another individual.
Checklist for You:
As parents, it’s wise to know what a quality childcare service is, and then determine if your child is already in one. Here is a checklist:
- Group size: The smaller the size the better. The more children there are, the more problems that will occur. A group size shouldn’t be greater than 18 to 20 children with two teachers.
- Teacher-child ratio: It is similar to group size. For one teacher, there should be no more than 8 to 10 preschool children. For infants and toddlers, the ratio should be less because infants and toddlers need more attention. If it’s a family childcare service, then no more than six children should be attending.
- Physical setting: Check to see if the inside environment is clean, in good repair, and has play or activity areas. Look for a fenced outdoor space with play equipment such as a swing, climbing equipment and sandbox.
- Teacher qualifications: Double check to make sure that the teachers have specialized preparation in early childhood development, early childhood education or a related field, and that they are not just freshly graduated high-school students.
- Licensing: If a child-care setting at a center or in a home has a license, the chances are far greater that you have found a high-quality program.
When At Home, Be At Home:
Although finding good-quality childcare is important, you still need to be there for your children. Take the time to see how your children are doing. Ask them questions about their day. When home, engage in healthy games, reading, and interaction with your children. Coming home from work can be exhausting, but the time spent with your children will be some of your best time and best memories. It is also time in your child’s life that you cannot afford to waste. It’s important to make sure that you are there not only physically, but mentally as well. Just because you are at work all day doesn’t mean you have to lose out on spending some real quality time with your children.
Children need their parents to be there for them, especially when they’ve been apart for most of the day. Even parents who don’t work outside the home fall into the trap of assuming that their mere presence is enough. Your children want you to be with them, play with them, read to them, be a central part of their lives when you are all at home. Please, for your children’s sake, let them know that you are there for them and that you love them. You, not some other individual or business, are the parent so don’t abdicate that responsibility to someone else. Quality daycare does exist and it can be indispensable to working parents, but it, alone, can never be the parent that your child needs and deserves.
Almanac of Policy Issues (2000). Child care. Retrieved from: http://www.policyalmanac.org/social_welfare/archive/child_care.shtml
Berk, L.E. (2012). Infants, Children and Adolescents. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care. (2004). Are child developmental outcomes related to before- and after-school care arrangements? Results from the NICHD study of early child care. Child Development, 75(1), 280-295.