Friday, September 10, 2010

Does Daycare Damage?

A few months back, I had the amazing opportunity to guest write for the official blog of the Center for Children and Families, a research, practice, and outreach organization at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

The topic? Childcare. It's a hot topic that parents have polarizing opinions on. The truth is that while many parents would love to be able to stay home full time with their kids, they just can't. Many parents are concerned that childcare, for whatever reason, may damage their child.

So, does daycare damage children? The answer may surprise you...below is the post, and you can find the original here.

When I tell people I study parents and kids, I’m often asked, ‘Will day care damage my child?’  It’s a common concern--that hours spent away from you, the parent, and in the care of someone who is also watching several other children will somehow harm or damage your child.  The answer is no-- if your child is in high-quality child care.

A recent study shows that children actually benefit from high-quality child care in two important ways: better academics and fewer behavior problems.  The study, which followed a large number of children across America from birth until age 15, found that adolescents who experienced high-quality childcare when they were young performed slightly better on academic tests than adolescents who experienced low-quality care or no care outside the home.  The study also found that children who had experienced high-quality child care had fewer problem behaviors (like getting into fights or arguing) as teenagers. The effects of early child care experience were small but lasting.  Early high-quality child care appears to have some lasting effects on children’s development -- over 10 years later.

These benefits pertain specifically to high-quality care. So what qualifies as ‘high-quality’?  The study defined high-quality care as care in which the provider interacts directly with children much of the time, is warm and supportive of children’s needs, and provides intellectual stimulation through games and other developmentally-appropriate activities.

Why would such child care result in higher test scores and fewer problem behaviors later in life?  Deborah Vandell, the lead author of the study, thinks it might be because higher quality child care provides children with early academic and social stimulation that readies them for school.  Children who receive sensitive care and quality stimulation starting early in life may have a head start on the skills they need to succeed in school.

Based on the study, here are some markers of high-quality childcare:

·     Classrooms with a low caregiver-child ratio (fewer children per caregiver) and low turnover of staff

·     Caregivers who are sensitive and responsive all the time, not just when children are upset

·     Classrooms with age-appropriate games and activities

·     Caregivers who get on the child’s level and interact directly with children

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) can help you locate a high quality, accredited program in your area.

You can also visit your local Department of Family services website and view child care options in your area, including results of recent inspections and any licensing violations.

So, parents, put your minds at ease. The days your child spends at child care, if the care is high-quality, may be helping her more than you know! 

What do you think about childcare? Share your thoughts as this could be a great discussion!


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