An investigation into the barely regulated, unsafe business of looking after our children
New Republic reporter Jonathan Cohn writes about daycare in the United States. He states that about 8.2 million kids in the United States — about 40 percent of children under 5 — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. He details the experience of single mother Kenya Mire whose daughter was killed when a home daycare went up in flames while the caregiver was shopping at Target, leaving the children at her center unattended.
Most children are cared for in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares. In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life have changed profoundly in recent decades, there is a lack of a similarly structured system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, its Dickensian.
Cohn cites a study that explains why children who grow up in nurturing, interactive environments tend to develop the skills they need to thrive as adults — like learning how to calm down after a setback or how to focus on a problem long enough to solve it. Kids who grow up without that kind of attention tend to lack impulse control and have more emotional outbursts. Later on, they are more likely to struggle in school or with the law. They also have more physical health problems. Numerous studies show that all children, especially those from low-income homes, benefit greatly from sound child care. The key ingredients are quite simple — starting with plenty of caregivers, who ideally have some expertise in child development.
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