Feature Articles—Child Care
The Benefits of Quality Child Care
Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, Cape Girardeau County and Southeast Region, University of Missouri Extension
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, an estimated 13 million children younger than six spend some, or all of their day, being cared for by someone other than their parents. This figure includes babies and toddlers. Ellen Peisner-Feinberg of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "estimates that more than half of the 3-to-5 year-old children in the United States attend child-care centers prior to kindergarten."
With these numbers in mind, quality child-care is an important issue in our country. For many parents, finding child-care for infant through school-age children is a fact of live. A trustworthy and dependable child-care situation makes it possible for parents to support their families financially. Parents need to take time and check to see if they are using a high quality child-care program.
Quality child-care is particularly critical for the well being of children and youth. Child- care research has shown that compared to low quality situations, high quality care can impact young children's intellectual, language, and social skills and behavior. In a recent study published in Child Development, better classroom materials and practices in the day care setting were associated with more advanced development of children's language and academic skills. The benefits of high quality care were even stronger and longer lasting for children at greater risk for having difficulty in school than the average. This was particularly true in case of better math skills and fewer problem behaviors.
Factors which contribute to high quality child-care are:
- Low child-teacher ratio increases the likelihood of one-to-one attention.
- Safe and healthy environment
- Caregivers who are nurturing and knowledgeable about children's development
- Caregivers have a consistent and stable presence in the child's life.
Staff training and educational background are among the most critical elements in improving children's experiences in child-care. Providers who receive higher quality training and more specialized training are more likely to be found in high quality care environments. Job satisfaction and commitment are two factors that contribute to the stability of care. Turnover rates in child-care providers are high. This is due to the stressful conditions of providing child-care with long hours, low pay, and few or no benefits.
Many people think that providing child-care comes naturally, but teaching and caring for children in groups takes special skills. The best child-care providers have education and training about children. Licensed caregivers in Missouri are required to have 12 hours of child-care training every year. Caregivers learn how to plan the day, provide nutritious foods and fun activities that children will like.
To check to see if you child-care setting is of high quality, contact your local extension office and ask for guidesheet, GH6233 Finding and Selecting Good Child Care: A Guide for Parents Returning to Work. Choosing the right child-care program for your family is an important decision. Finding quality child-care helps your children to grow and gives you, the parent, the peace of mind to do your work.
Walker, Susan and Morris, Susan. A Regional, Coordinated Approach to Extension Child Care Provider Training, The Reporter, Fall 2001, p.5-8.
Last update: Tuesday, August 25, 2009