FIGHTBACK: Quality Child Care is Good for Children


by Sylvia Weinstein


Quality Child Care is Good for Children


It’s also true that if children are fed healthy, nutritious meals they won’t die of hunger.

The knowledge about quality child care has been around since World War II, when the federal government, needing the labor power of women, invested millions in child-care services so women could work in the war industries. Immediately after the war, regardless of need, the government did away with funding child care, hoping this would drive women back to their homes.

On Oct. 22, The New York Times ran a full page on the results of a study on child care that began in 1972 and followed 111 African American families in the Chapel Hill, N.C., area until the children were adults. The program, called the Abecedarian Project, involved families whose infants were medically healthy but, demographically, at risk for failure in school and beyond.

Half of the children were randomly assigned to full-time day care from infancy to age five, while the others received only nutritional supplements and some social work. They attended comparable public schools from kindergarten on.

With low adult-child ratios and a stable, professional staff, the educational program consisted of a series of 200 simple games focused on language development, starting with visual stimulus for tiny infants and leading to scavenger hunts and mazes for older toddlers.

What did the study show?

Thirty-five percent of those in the day care program attended a four-year college before their 21st birthday, compared with 14 percent of the comparison group. At age 21, twice as many of the day care graduates (40 percent) were still in school; 65 percent of those who received the intervention either had a good job or were in college-compared with 40 percent of the others.

Fewer of the participants in the child-care program had children of their own by age 21; those who did become parents did so, on average, past their 19th birthday, while the parents in the other group were about 17.

“The so-called efficacy question, whether you can effect development in the pre-school years is resoundingly answered in the affirmative,” Craig T. Ramey, director of the study, said at a news conference. “It has become crystal clear that if you wait until age three or four you are going to be dealing with a series of delays and deficits that will put you in remedial programs.”

“The argument that we can’t afford this is absolutely bogus,” Dr Ramey said. “We get what we pay for. We’re the richest country on the face of the earth; we’re the richest we’ve ever been. We’re not number one in the world in education, in health care, in social services.”

The results of a study on world hunger were announced about the same time as the results of the above study on early childhood development. The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said, “Hunger has been decreasing everywhere in the world-except in Africa and the United States.

In this country, he said, “in all states, hunger is just a few dollars away for too many families.”

Nationwide, 9.7 percent of American households-or about 10 million individuals-go without food because they cannot afford it, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That, my friends, is capitalism. The richest country in the world has children who go to bed hungry every night. “Let them eat cake,” said Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution. Remember?

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