140+: In the Moment

A Contradiction in Terms: Why This Child Care Advocate Posts Negative Stories About Child Care

The other day, I posted one of my usual missives about the horrible condition of child care in America on my Facebook page. It was just another day in my life in which I try to get people to wake up and smell the coffee about how far we (advocates, parents, child care providers, policy makers, the media, and everyone else) have to go to improve child care. Soon thereafter, and one of my childhood friends who doesn’t really know what I do for a living responded to the post by saying “It’s terrible! And those parents keep on working and sending their children.” I was horrified and quickly deleted the post.

That post made me wake up and smell the coffee about the implications of the messages I send out! I looked back at my Facebook and Twitter posts, and I realized that I’m not completing the thought! People who don’t know me think I am “anti-child care!” Whhhoooa! I know child care, and when done well, it provides children and parents with many positive outcomes. As a matter of fact, high-quality child care includes developmentally appropriate learning opportunities that make the most of the critical early learning years when brain development is most rapid. As a working mother and a child care professional, I know it is simply a necessary fact of life for most people in our nation. Clearly, I support parents and their need to work.

It’s true that based on the reports produced by  my employer, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, I have come to believe that by and large, child care in America is in a deplorable state due to lack of standards, regulations, oversight, and adequate training. I also know, based on my experience as a parent of a child who has been in child care, as a child care center administrator in a multi-site organization dedicated to high-quality early learning experiences,  and as a curriculum and assessment developer, there are examples of wonderful, well-operated programs throughout the country. Because I do know what high-quality child care looks like from the inside, and as someone with experience at the national level, I am passionate that all children and families have the highest quality care.

Why would someone who works on behalf of child care promote negative stories? It seems counter intuitive that advocates would not want to promote the stories of great examples of child care that works. Here’s why I post about negative stories:

• While there are good examples of family child care and child care programs, they are few and far between. A 2006 study by The National Institute of Child Health and Development rated only 10% of programs throughout the nation as “good.” It’s hard to build interest in change when the results are so small.
• NACCRRA’s studies reveal that parents believe the government is doing its part to protect children in child care, when, in fact, there is an alarming lack of standardization and regulation of child care throughout the country.
• There is a general lack of awareness about child care, and as an advocate and the head of Child Care Aware Parent Network, I need to do my part to raise awareness and educate the public.
• The media, policy-makers, and the general public don’t pay attention to the “feel-good” stories.
• The stories of the tragic results of poor child care provide clear illustrations of what needs to be done to improve quality throughout the nation.

I’ve learned that it is important for me to “complete” the thought when I post, so people who read the posts understand that I am not implying that parents should avoid child care, and most importantly, I do not want to make anyone feel guilty about using it. I also don’t want to perpetuate the chasm that exists between working parents and those who have the luxury of a myriad of choices. As a matter of fact, I am posting in order to encourage people to join me, NACCRRA , and our new Child Care Aware Parent Network to advocate for Federal legislation for better regulation, funding, and oversight of child care through states and the local agencies that are tasked with child care licensing. Learn more about our Policy Agenda , and join us to educate the public and advocate for the world-class child care because 11 million children in child care in America are counting on us.


2 Responses to 'A Contradiction in Terms: Why This Child Care Advocate Posts Negative Stories About Child Care'

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  1. Fran Simon said,

    Hi Marilyn:

    Thanks for your comment. It is so important for the early childhood community to discuss these big issues, and even disagree! Out of conflict, change is born. And child care in America is in a world of hurt! It’s time for new ideas. Together we can find new solutions!

    I think we agree on more than you think, and I hope I can help you come around to see embrace the future of quality child care.

    Just to set the record straight, I am a former early childhood program administrator with more than 25 years of experience working with families, so I have been in the trenches like you… although in other settings.

    First, we agree that family child care is one of the most underutilized, under-recognized, and under valued treasures in the field. I took a look at your site and I agree that children, especially infants and toddlers, benefit from the rich, warm, loving home-like environment offered in family child care. As a matter of fact, I routinely recommend that parents with infants and toddlers explore family child care before they enroll in center-based care. (My surprised friends will attest to that!) The problem, as you probably already know, is that not every family child care provider is as passionate and dedicated to their work as you. The quality of care can vary widely. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if parents could walk into any family or center-based child care environment to find the same level of safety, health, and developmentally appropriate play-based learning? I know you can agree that it would be fantastic to see every family child care home to provide the same high-quality care that you provide.

    Marilyn, have you spent any time visiting other family child care homes? If you were to take the perspective of a parent, and visit other programs, i think you might be surprised and unsettled with what you find.

    I am suggesting that NATIONAL standards can ensure that the playing field is leveled for children and for parents who are looking for high-quality care, but don’t know what to consider. I am not an expert on the QRIS in Massachusetts, but what I can tell you is that every state is handling quality improvement differently. From my perspective, there should be federal guidelines to provide consistency from state to state.

    I hear your frustration that you have been doing this work for a very long time, and you are an expert with a great track record. It sounds to me like you object to the PROCESS involved in earning the Quality status. I know this might be difficult, but as someone who considers herself a professional, you could turn your feelings around to see the process as an opportunity to learn more, and provide even higher levels of quality child care. You can never know too much, or do too much for children. As a matter of fact, if you embrace the process, you could become a leader who contributes to more than just the care of the children who come to her home for care, but for other children in other programs in your state!

    I realize that it is costly to take the time off to take the courses, but some states have quality improvement stipends and grants to offset the losses you will incur if you take time off. You should contact your local CCR&R to find out if there are grants or scholarships available. And, in terms of observations: You run a great program! It’s an opportunity to shine and to show off! Your new quality status will be a symbol of all you do each day. Parents will be able to recognize you as a professional! That’s fantastic!

    I also hear that you object to the expectations for curriculum. From my understanding, the choices of curricula in MA include play-based programs that are far from the rigorous academic programs you describe. If you take a look at them, I bet you will find you already do a lot of what is outlined in these curricula.

    Have you been in touch with the folks at your local CCR&R? You can find a lot of information specifically for FCC providers and your local CCR&R contact information at http://www.childcareaware.org/. Are you a member of NAFCC? http://www.NAFCC.org You may want to spend some time on the site and get connected with other FCC providers there.

    I know you and I share passion for high-quality child care. I applaud you for your work and your commitment. I hope you will consider continuing your work as a leader in FCC in MA with a positive focus on the future of high quality family child care. And, I hope our discussion has sparked a new interest in embracing QRIS as a opportunity for the recognition you deserve!

    Keep us posted! Thanks for writing!


  2. I couldn’t disagree with you more. You are on the inside but you are not on the front lines. I am a licensed daycare provider in MA. And I know many providers like myself in my area who are high quality providers. MA has tough standards and there is no daycare crisis here. It is all propaganda. I have a blog I would like you to read at http://www.mothers2others.com This blog exposes the propaganda being fed to the parents of America about the “crisis” in this country concerning childcare. The real crisis here is the new QRIS star rating system being implemented in our in-home daycares that will drive parents to centers. Universal K3 and K4 are on the horizon and this will fit well into the plan to drive infants into the empty centers. The real crisis here is that many high quality loving, caring, successful in-home daycares will be driven out of business and they don’t even realize it. They won’t know what hit them, until it is too late. Those that survive these changes will no longer be moms, they will be teachers. Their daycare homes will no longer be homes, they will be structured learning facilities.

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