Testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources for the hearing on Improving the Quality of Child Care
July 17, 1997
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In the Committee for Economic Development's 1993 report, Why Child Care Matters, quality child care is defined as providing a nurturing, safe and stimulating environment for children. The report states that quality child care promotes the healthy growth and development of children.
We know high quality child care programs have a major impact on the lives of young children.
Quality Child Care Is A Good Investment
Various longitudinal studies have documented that high quality programs for young children living in poverty have lasting benefits and a return on investment. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 27 found a $7.16 return for each dollar invested. Some of the savings were due to reduced special education and welfare costs and higher future worker productivity.
The Carnegie Corporation's report, Starting Points, finds that "quality child care enables a young child to become emotionally secure, socially competent, and intellectually capable." The report indicates that "children who receive warm and sensitive caregiving are more likely to enter school ready and eager to learn." Inadequate or barely adequate care is a powerful predictor of early dropping out of school and delinquency.
How Does Child Care Impact The Lives Of Young Children?
A Child Trends study in 1991 found that children in families on AFDC, who are nearly one-third more likely to suffer either from delays in growth and development, a significant emotional or behavioral problem, or a learning disability, have a greater need for more comprehensive and higher quality services than other children.
In addition, we know that:
- across all levels of maternal education and child gender and ethnicity, children's cognitive and socio-emotional development are positively related to the quality of their child care experience (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
- nearly one-third more children in families on welfare are likely to suffer either delays in growth and development, a significant emotional or behavioral problem, or a learning disability (Child Care Tradeoffs: States Make Painful Choices);
- children in higher quality preschool classrooms display greater receptive language ability and pre-math skills, view their child care and themselves more positively, have warmer relationships with their teachers, and have more advanced social skills than those in lower quality classrooms (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
- children from low-income families are less likely to attend child care/early care and education programs with about 50% of children living in households with incomes of $10,000 or less regularly attending a program compared to over 75% of children in households with incomes in excess of $75,000 attending a program (US Department of Education);
- when family child care providers are sensitive, children are more likely to be securely attached to the provider (The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care);
- when family child care providers are responsive, children are far more likely to play with objects and to engage in more complex play, which leads to language skills and reading and math readiness (The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care).
What Is The Status Of Child Care Quality?
There are many concerns about the current status of the quality of child care services. We know that:
- in one study, the quality of 40% of the infant and toddler classrooms in centers were found to endanger children's health and safety (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
- seven of ten centers provide mediocre care, and one in eight provide care that is so inadequate that it threatens the health and safety of children (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
- only one in seven centers provides a level of care that promotes healthy development (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
- in a study of family child care homes, only 9% of the homes were rated as good quality (growth-enhancing); 56% were rated as adequate/custodial (neither growth-enhancing nor growth-harming); and 35% were rated as inadequate (growth-harming) (The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care);
- in many states, individuals who care for young children are not required to hold any certificate or degree (Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children);
- many states require no or minimal pre-service and in-service training;
- about 40% of center-based programs are exempt from state regulation and as much as 80% of the family child care providers are not regulated (Children's Defense Fund);
- average annual staff turnover rates for child care programs is about 40% (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
What Are The Predictors Of Quality Child Care?
Research has indicated that there are certain predictors of quality child care services.
- The quality of child care is primarily related to higher staff-to-child ratios, staff education, and administrator's prior experience (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers);
- Certain characteristics such as teacher wages, education, and specialized training distinguish poor, mediocre, and good-quality centers (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers); and
- Family child care providers are more likely to be rated as sensitive, observed as responsive, and rated as having higher global quality scores when they:
- are committed to taking care of children and are doing so from a sense that this work is important ;
- seek out opportunities to learn about children's development and child care, have higher levels of education, and participate in family child care training;
- plan experiences for the children;
- seek out others who are providing care and are more involved with other family child care providers;
- charge higher rates and follow standard business and safety practices;
- are regulated; and
- care for slightly larger groups.
(The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care);
Recommendations To Improve The Quality Of Child Care Services
We urge the careful consideration and support of various approaches to improve the quality of child care services delivered to young children. These approaches are based upon research findings that show a relationship between quality and professional development, caregiver compensation, specialized training, classroom size, and child-to-staff ratios. Some of the approaches include:
- development and support of a professional credentialling system for child care staff;
- linking training to higher compensation to encourage professional development of child care staff;
- loan forgiveness for participation in higher education to support child care staff to pursue academic degrees;
- incentives for accredited programs;
- improved standards in child:staff ratios, classroom size, and qualifications for staff and administrators, all predictors of quality care; and
- parent information about the elements of quality care to make them better and more informed consumers.
The Future of Children: Long-Term Outcomes of Early Childhood Programs, Center for the Future of Children, Volume 5, Number 3, Winter, 1995
The Study of Children in Family Child Care and Relative Care, Galinsky, Howes, Kontos, & Shinn; Families and Work Institute, New York, NY, 1994.
Child Care Tradeoffs: States Make Painful Choices, Nancy Ebb, Children's Defense Fund, Washington, DC, January, 1994.
Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers, Economics Department, University of Colorado at Denver, January, 1995.
Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children, Carnegie Corporation of New York, April, 1994.
Child Care for Low-Income Families: Summary of Two Workshops, National Research Council, Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC, July 1995.
Key Child Care Facts and Good Quality Child Care: A Dramatic Opportunity to Promote Learning and Prevent Damage in Our Youngest Children, two reports developed by the Child Care Action Campaign, New York, NY, 1996.
The Florida Child Care Quality Improvement Study, Howes, Smith, Galinsky, Families and Work Institute, New York, NY, April, 1995.
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