Photo by Alexis Jenkins
Between birth and kindergarten, my two children experienced the gamut of child care situations:
- A new mom on a short-term disability maternity leave.
- A nanny share at someone else’s house.
- A full-time nanny at my house. (Yes, I paid the taxes.)
- A private cooperative nursery school.
- A child development center based at a community college.
- A stay-at-home, minivan-driving mom.
- An experienced, licensed, home-based care provider.
- Daycare at the YMCA.
- Two private preschools, one in a church basement.
- Teenage babysitters.
The early years of motherhood were marked by job changes and evolving needs. When my second child finally started kindergarten, I practically kissed the ground outside of the elementary school right after kissing her goodbye. The love affair with school lost its glow soon, as I experienced just how how out of synch public school schedules and calendars are with the world of work.
More than 12 million children in the United States are in some form of child care. We, the Parents, We, the Workers, must entrust our most precious little people with individuals or institutions who we hope will provide a loving, attentive, stimulating and safe environment. Indeed, we hope they can do it nearly as well as we can (if not better.)
As science offers greater understanding about the human brain, advocates are beginning to focus on the importance of the earliest years in a child’s life, when positive experiences can lead to healthy social, emotional and intellectual development. And, of course, when negative experiences can lead to trauma that can distort the shape of a lifetime.
In the public square, there are increasing calls for universal preschool for four-year-olds (and three-year-olds). And, national campaigns aim to influence parents to read, talk and play with their little ones. But there hasn’t been much talk about child care and the stress parents face finding quality, affordable caretakers in every zip code.
Is this not an urgent issue that deserves scrutiny from journalists and policymakers?
This week, JCCF presents a package of stories and resources about child care. We hope these pieces are informative and, perhaps, will inspire and assist your own reporting on this issue.