The report on the impact of child care on children's behavior (Empire, April 19), no doubt fostered some anxiety for many parents. The majority of the approximately 2,000 young children in Juneau from birth to 5 currently attend child care while their parents work.
The good news at the tail end of the article shows that children in high-quality care have better language and other cognitive skills when they enter kindergarten. This study reinforces other research following children in high- and low-quality care until age 21. Study after study finds that high-quality care makes a difference not only for school readiness, but also for later reduction in juvenile delinquency and unemployment.
Everyone wants families to have more time together. But it's unrealistic to suggest that in every family, one parent can be a full-time caregiver to the child. According to the Children's Defense Fund, one out of three children whose mothers work would be in poverty if they didn't work. Many women are working to pay the mortgage or for health insurance.
If we want young children to have more time with their parents, we need to expand parental leave and establish workplace policies that are more responsive to families. Instead of blaming parents for using child care so they can work, let's offer support to families whether their young children are cared for at home, in part-day pre-school, or full-time care. Let's make early care and education as good as it can be for all children and families.
Raising children and balancing work and family is an incredible challenge for parents. It's a whole lot easier with the support of education funds for early learning programs, caring communities and flexible employers. The caring, knowledgeable staff of a high-quality child care program can become like an "extended family" for working parents as well as for children.
National Association for the Education of Young Children, SE Alaska
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