Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Daycare Round 2

Mark sent me a link to Emily Bazelon's article, The Kids Are Alright, in Slate.com. She interviewed study's author, Margaret Burchinal. The article is worth reading in it's entirety.

One thing that is lost in much of the media hoopla is how little high quality daycare they found in their data set. Nearly all the families that used center-based care used low-quality ones, probably because they are the cheapest. They wanted to compare high and low quality daycare centers, but there weren't enough kids in high-quality daycare for them to do a meaningful comparison.

The media also overlooked the finding that the behavior problems increased only by a very slight amount, and mainly for kids who had spent 4 years or more in day care centers by the time they were 4 1/2 years of age. That meant they were in poor quality day care centers from infancy.

That makes me unbelievably sad, that parents are leaving their children in places that they know are not high-quality, but can't afford better.

When we were searching for daycare, we looked at a variety of places, both in centers and homes. In our research, we were astonished that ratios as high as 6:1 are allowed in daycare centers in most states. Who can take care of that many babies at once?

We put Iris in one of the most expensive ones because it had a 3:1 infant to caregiver ratio, versus the 4:1 required by California law. The kids seemed happier and the employees less stressed out. (It was also a 7 minute walk from our house and the bus stop for the line to our workplace was 50 feet away.)

Whenever we visited, it seemed like about 1/3 of the babies were sleeping and 1-2 babies were being held by each child care provider. When meal or diaper change time came, a center "floater" came to assist. Often, parents were visiting at the center. I was there often because I worked 20-30 hours a week back then and breast fed Iris at the center during my break.

As soon as she was able to sit up, she was playing games with the staff. We even have pictures of her finger painting at 11 weeks! The families bonded at the day care center. Today, she still plays with those friends.

In closing, did you notice that the articles almost always state that 1364 children were followed in the study? According to the NIH summary, they had lost track of nearly 300 children by 2004; the recently published results follow 1073 children. By the next report, they will likely have lost a few more.

Link
Blogger Linda Thomas has a humorous take on this.

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