High-quality child care can have a lasting impact on a child’s development, behavior and cognitive abilities, according to a report released today by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Based on the findings of the report, children who received high-quality care in the first few years of life scored higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement when they were 15 years old. They also were less likely to misbehave than those who were enrolled in lower-quality child care, according to the report.
“The report clearly shows that high-quality child care is related to future academic success,” said Linda K. Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). “And, yet, most children do not have access to quality care. We’ve had 40 years of child care research, all with a consistent message – quality child care makes a difference. The NICHD study shows that even 10 years after children have left child care, quality child care is still related to higher academic achievement. But, the condition of child care throughout the country is poor. Standards are weak; oversight is weaker.
“What is important about today’s report is that it shows the quality of care can have a long-lasting impact on middle class and affluent children, not poor children alone,” said Smith. “I hope this report is a wake-up call to Congress. The primary reason that state child care policies are so weak is that the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that gives guidance to states in setting state child care policy, needs to be strengthened.”
Today, more than 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care setting every week while their parents work. On average, children of working mothers spend 36 hours every week in child care.
“Now is the time for Congress to act to improve the quality of child care,” said Smith. “It has been 20 years since CCDBG was first enacted. Policymakers have really not taken a close look at it since then,” said Smith. “We know the quality of care matters. We know that children need to be safe and in a setting that promotes their healthy development. How many more studies do we need before Congress strengthens our nation’s child care laws?”
To improve the quality of care, NACCRRA recommends that Congress: (1) require all child care providers regularly paid to care for unrelated children to be licensed and routinely inspected; (2) require all paid providers to undergo a comprehensive background check based on fingerprints; (3) require an inspection/site visit prior to licensing and at least one inspection annually; (4) require 40 or more hours of initial training and 24 hours of annual training (in basic areas like CPR, first aid, safe sleeping practices for infants, child development, etc.); (5) require states to meet each of the 10 basic health and safety standards pediatricians and child development experts recommend; (6) grant the Child Care Bureau the authority to assess state child care plans for content and compliance and withhold funds from states with insufficient policies and oversight; (7) require states to justify any categories of providers who are exempt from regulation and (8) require states to post inspection results on the Internet.
NACCRRA has released two reports about the condition of child care throughout the United States: We Can Do Better, which scores and ranks the states based on state child care center policies and Leaving Children to Chance, which scores and ranks the states based on state small family child care home policies. To download a copy of these reports, visit www.naccrra.org.