Some years back, I started a day care search with a list from the now-defunct nonprofit Family Connections. The list showed all the licensed child care options within 5 miles of my house. I know, it sounds crazy now. With a few more years of parenting under my belt, I understand now, of course, with this hugest of huge decisions you don’t get lists. You go to other moms and dads who have been in the child care search trenches and find out what’s best. But I didn’t know that then.
Boy, did I not know.
What I saw made me wonder why there weren’t news cameras and Child Protective Services workers and outraged parents taking to the streets.
There was the home day care facility, run by a very nice woman, who nonetheless had not allowed these little kids in her care to play outside—I mean, at all—in over a year. She had a broken fence, and only one pair of eyes, so the safest thing was to keep the kids who stayed with her from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in a converted garage watching videos for hours a day.
There was the day care provider who in the presence of me, the prospective client, screamed at her charges who were all of 2 and 3 years old, repeatedly. Again, there was no sunlight in the place, just shuttered windows for optimal TV-viewing conditions.
Now many of the places I saw and people I met in those couple of weeks were lovely. (That includes several day cares in very humble homes, by the way.) It was just that the quality was all over the map.
Texas has some of the lowest child care standards in the country. Guess how much training someone needs to work in a licensed child care center? Eight hours. That’s 200 times fewer hours than it takes to work in a licensed hair salon, the Texas Tribune notes.
I’ve said it before: this makes no sense. Quality child care and preschool, all the research shows, keeps kids from falling behind and saves society money. It’s not just families that would be better off if conditions were better. This is everybody’s problem, and everyone’s business to help solve.
There are some good folks working on solutions. You’re invited to a free event, “The Impact of Pre-K,” to come meet some of the players and learn how you can get involved. On Thursday, April 12, Texans Care for Children and the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition are holding this open conference on early childhood environments at the State Capitol Building. You can drop by, even for just a workshop or two, but you must pre-register: space is limited.
To give you a taste, here are some highlights of offerings, during the 1:45- 3 p.m. workshop session:
- Pre-K Quality Texas style, a panel discussion about what’s happening with publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs;
- Early Childhood Intervention: Opportunities to help babies and toddlers with developmental delays reach their potential, where you can meet parents and community leaders who are mobilizing around program that’s helping little kids with early problems get a head start; and
- Child care quality reform, another panel talk, this one about the give and take between improving quality and keeping child care affordable for families.
There are other choices at other times of day, too, but sessions are filling up fast. While child care is not offered in conjunction with the event, lunch is (for a fee), though, again, space is limited. Hope you can make it and that I see you there.
Written by: Christine Sinatra