Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Contract for Day Care?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Contract for Day Care?

Article excerpt

When the talk of the times turned to orphanages for non-orphans, I confess that a small light bulb went on over my head. If we were going to take the children of poor mothers and raise them in group homes, why not start modestly and cheaply. Why not start with part-time orphanages? Why not open them during working hours? We could call it day care. After all, the folks who favor 24-hour care would certainly favor eight- or 10-hour care.

All who liked Boys Town would like Preschool Towns.

I know, it will be hard to get a child-care subcontract into the Contract With America. For reasons that escape me, child care is considered a tired old liberal idea while orphanages are a bright new conservative idea. Maybe it's a difference of day and night.

Still, the argument about poverty and work, welfare and workfare, hangs on a familiar question: Who Will Take Care of the Children?

For decades, many on the political right have believed that mothers with small children shouldn't work outside the home, but that welfare mothers should get a job. Meanwhile many on the political left have defended working mothers but have been uneasy pushing poor women into their ranks. Today, at the ideological core of this debate are the families, struggling and juggling with work and kids, who have concluded that if they can do it, so can welfare mothers. Moreover, if they have to do it, so should welfare mothers.

Into this emotional debate comes a new, critical study of the quality of child care. Psychologists and economists from four universities - Yale, UCLA, the Universities of Denver and North Carolina - examined 400 child care centers and tested children in four states.

They came to the depressing conclusion that the vast majority of children in these centers were getting care that was "mediocre in quality, sufficiently poor to interfere with children's emotional and intellectual development." Only one in seven centers provided the security and the stimulation that earned a high rating.

The youngest of the children fare the worst. About 40 percent of the infant and toddler rooms were rated poor, and as Yale's Sharon Lynn Kagan says, "When I say I poor, I mean poor - broken glass on the playground, unchanged diapers. …

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