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This post is written by Amy Fain.

A new research study finds children who have received poor childcare are impacted negatively for many years, even after they leave the low quality care environment.  This study looked at 1364 children from varied background and found a similar patterns to their behavior as old as fifteen.   The study was started with the growing concern for so many children being cared for outside the home.   One interesting fact the researcher found was that poor care impacted the children regardless if the care was provided in their home or outside their home.   One important note the researchers did find that the influence of parents and family member were “clearly more important than child care”.

Researchers had speculated that the negative effects of lower-quality care would disappear as the influence of other factors, such as peers, teachers and maturation, overcame the early childhood experience. But in the latest analysis of the data, they discovered that teenagers who had received higher-quality child care were less likely to report engaging in problem behaviors such as arguing, being mean to others and getting into fights. Those who spent more hours in child care of any kind were more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors. And those who received moderately high- or high-quality care scored higher on tests gauging cognitive and academic achievement.

As an early childhood professional I found this research to be very important to support more teacher training, degreed teachers in the classroom and funding to help support the cost of providing high quality early childhood learning environments.

Amy Fain is Professional Development Coordinator at Community Action Project.

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You can’t afford child care without work, and you can’t work without child care. Child care subsidy programs are supposed to address this problem, but…

Parents across the nation are finding it even more difficult to go back to work, since many states are cutting critical child care subsidies, reports the New York Times. These programs were a part of the 1996 welfare reforms intended to move mothers off cash assistance and into jobs, but now due to cuts many mothers are having to seek cash assistance just to access the child care subsidy:

The cuts to subsidized child care challenge the central tenet of the welfare overhaul adopted in 1996, which imposed a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. Under the change, low-income parents were forced to give up welfare checks and instead seek paychecks, while being promised support — not least, subsidized child care — that would enable them to work.

Now, in this moment of painful budget cuts, with Arizona and more than a dozen other states placing children eligible for subsidized child care on waiting lists, only two kinds of families are reliably securing aid: those under the supervision of child protective services — which looks after abuse and neglect cases — and those receiving cash assistance.

Ms. Wallace abhors the thought of going on cash assistance, a station she associates with lazy people who con the system. Yet this has become the only practical route toward child care.

In our experience implementing the CareerAdvance program, we’ve found our parents’ ability to access the state DHS subsidy has been extremely time-consuming and difficult, and that many times the parents ultimately don’t qualify anyway. (CAP’s benefits screening program can help with this.) Furthermore, in the Oklahoma program parents are responsible for a flat monthly copay, which is based on income and number of children. That means that it doesn’t matter whether the parent needs care 2 hours per week or every day of the month – it will cost the same. That may work (to some extent) for working parents, but parents in education and training will often find that the copay is not only unaffordable but exceeds the cost of their child care needs in the first place. In other words, it is no subsidy at all.

Hat tip to our CAP colleague Amy Fain for sending me the NYT link.

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(Note: I kind of buried the lede here. Make sure you see the second-to-last paragraph.)

The Tulsa World spent the last two days investigating the ratings and inspection process DHS uses for child care and early education providers. DHS has documented 400 violations in routine inspections of 3-star providers in Tulsa County since January 2007. Although DHS does not document cases of providers losing stars as a result of violations, the article implies that DHS is not taking adequate action in response to its own findings. For instance it profiles one center that received 62 violations over the course of two years, lost its national accreditation, but retains its three star rating.

The star system is based on whether a provider has achieved national accreditation. That means a new very high quality center will be classified a “one star” because it isn’t accredited yet, while an older facility whose quality may have dropped since accreditation will remain a “three star”. Not surprisingly, the media often uses these labels as a stand-in for quality, which can be misleading for the reasons just mentioned. The stars are meant to help parents choose quality child care, but they also determine reimbursement rates provided by DHS for subsidized chld care. (A three star facility will receive more money per child than a one star.)

Chid care operators complain that inspections are uneven, with some documenting violations for the slightest inconsistencies (e.g. litter blown into a playground on a windy day), and that DHS does not record actions taken to correct problems immediately. One center’s attorney went so far as to accuse DHS of having  a “culture of presuming accusations of a complaint true until the respondent disproves them.”

Those 400 violations across 37 Tulsa County three-star centers sounds pretty alarming – an average of 10.8 violations per center! The article goes on to profile two centers with a combined 234 violations, which makes it seem like that’s typical of three star centers and that there’s a crisis in DHS’s licensing processes. But removing those two yields an average of 4.7 violations across the 35 other centers, which seems pretty reasonable over a two year period that inclues six surprise DHS inspections, particularly given the agency’s alleged propensity to document very minor noncompliance issues. (This is a good example of why it’s very important to report the median number and not the mean average or even just overall figures.) 

In a follow-up article published this morning, the paper profiles CAP’s own Good Shepherd, which has gone without violations or complaint since January 2007. (So, too, have Happy Hearts Academy and Bethany Community School.) CAP’s eight accredited centers have received a combined total of less than 20 violations from DHS (mean = 2.5). Of course I have no complaint that our very high-quality centers and excellent staff are featured favorably by the paper, but – contrary to the spirit of the Tulsa World’s investigation – evidence demonstrates that many (and probably most) three-star centers are providing quality care with relatively few violations themselves.

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I’ve heard of child-care and home school coops before, but not this. A letter to the editor in yesterday’s Washington Post praises D.C.’s cooperative play program:

The major reason the children are doing so well is that all of the parents at the program are active participants in the education of their children. Parents at each school go through the same criminal and health screenings that paid professionals undergo, and because parents volunteer every day, each site needs only one teacher to maintain a high adult-to-child ratio, a hallmark of successful preschool programs. The participation of parents, along with the sponsorship of the city, also makes the preschool co-op play program affordable. Many private preschools are out of reach for low-income and middle-class families. Combined with the significant benefits of parental engagement, the preschool co-op play program is a valuable resource for parents of all incomes.

The program is open to children aged 18 months to 5 years and runs from 9am to noon every school day. Every parent must volunteer one day per child weekly (though this requirement is usually softened) and commit to regularly attending Parent Board meetings. The cost is $7 per day or $1,176 per school year.

The difference here is that it combines some of the benefits of a coop (parent involvement, cost control) with the quality of center-based care (certified professionals, low adult-child ratios), while remaining accessible to working parents. I imagine even full-time workers could arrange a work schedule that allowed for the 3 hours per week of volunteering.

How could this apply to CAP, which runs a no-cost childcare program? One idea that comes to my mind is trying this program for before- or after-care.

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