Early quality of care affects children for years

I saw this article today on MSNBC:

Low-quality child care can have lasting impact
Behavior, academic problems persist through age 15, major study finds

It was a major study and therefore is news (and it includes Washington State data), but what I don’t get is why we are surprised by this and why we as a society don’t put care during the earliest years as a higher priority. I loved how the end of the article said that this isn’t a low-income problem – this is a problem for all of us.

We as a society need to prioritize our babies and toddlers and say that it is important for us all to enable parents, all parents, to have access to high quality child care (and by that I mean caring for a child, not the process of dropping a child off at “childcare” because child care can be low quality when given at home as well.) However what also comes from this is that often when you have less money, you’re not able to afford a higher quality of childcare. Also childcare providers themselves can actively hide what is going on to parents so although the parents think it’s a quality childcare, it’s not. I don’t know how the finances of this will ever be able to be worked out, but I do hope that more attention on this will help get our children what they need because investing in those first four years of a child’s life has to be a top priority.

I wonder where all this comes from. Is it that old thinking that babies are basically lumps that just need tending to physical needs, but they really blossom when they begin to talk or go to school? This study indicates that by then, much of the damage of an unstimulating, harsh or neglectful environment has been done and it persists through at least adolescence. Or is it that we don’t value what is traditionally women’s work – caring for children? Or is it that we figure kids grow up anyway and survive and because they are resilient, as long as they are alive and appear unhurt, we are OK?

I am relieved that the popular media has begun to say over and over again – take care of our moms, take care of our children, value the early prenatal / birth through preschool years and a lot of the problems of society will be lessened not only in this generation but in future ones.

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