Don’t feel guilty. It’s not necessarily your fault.
Finding a day care provider for your kid can be a confusing, frustrating process.
I was a teacher for more than a decade and worked as a research assistant for an early childhood project and for a nonprofit identifying high-performing early childhood programs. Yet when I had my own kid and moved to a new city where I had few personal or professional connections, I was still baffled and had no idea where to start. I contacted an early childhood advocacy organization, asking for help, but received no response. I asked the few people that I knew where they sent their kids, mostly my neighbors. Most of the programs that I was told were “good” — although I was unsure of the criteria for effectiveness — were full or did not offer flexible schedules.
According to recent research out of Canada, my experience was probably more than typical. I found an amazing early childhood program, but I was lucky and the program happened to have an unexpected opening when I called. In this study, parents were largely unaware of what kind of training and education their day care providers had and knew little about the program’s day-to-day routines and educational objectives, despite the fact that quality early childhood education can result in long-term educational benefits.
There are federal and state attempts at an accreditation system for early childhood education providers, but they are generally rigorous, time-consuming processes. Right before I started looking for day care for my son, I was reading Bringing Up Bebe, the pro-French parenting memoir that was all the rage before the Tiger Mom phenomenon. Her description of the French creche system for babies was astounding: extremely well-trained teachers, joyous instruction, excellent food. It can also be hard to get a slot. But then all kids are guaranteed a place in the universal preschool system at age three. This preschool system isn’t required, but 95% of French kids participate because it’s so high quality and free. Yes, free.
There’s been a lot of reporting about mixed outcomes in the Head Start program. But why couldn’t our country subsidize day care for all kids, not just the poorest? Of course, it shouldn’t be required, but kids could have a chance at socializing with kids from different backgrounds outside of the pressure of standardized testing, learn about nutrition, play, and have relationships with caring experts in the field of early childhood education.
How did you choose your child’s day care?