Gathering Places


Friday, May 4, 2001

Children in
high-quality daycare
are on the right track

Recent articles on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study on Early Child Care have focused on statistics asserting that children in childcare demonstrate aggression, defiance and disobedience.

That report, however, said that only 17 percent of the 1,300 young children participating in the study who spent more than 30 hours a week in childcare demonstrated these characteristics. The majority (83 percent) did not. In addition, the 17 percent who tended to have behavioral problems were well within the normal range, and these problems may disappear as they mature.

The NICHD study concluded that high-quality childcare resulted in less problem behavior. High-quality childcare also related to children who displayed greater social competence and cooperation. What this means to parents in Hawaii is that children who are in high- quality early learning and care environments are on the right track.

Children who are nurtured, loved and provided with a rich history of early learning will have improved cognitive ability, language skills and memory skills. Kids placed in early childcare learn routines and rituals prior to kindergarten that enable them to understand cooperation, sharing with others and following directions.

The NICHD study did not say what constitutes behavioral problems: What is the difference between assertive children and aggressive children? Are children considered to be aggressive just because they rush to get to the front of the line so they can be the first to get juice or the recess ball?

It would be more accurate to say that those children understand the rituals of working in a group.

The true test for Hawaii is to deepen our appreciation of the importance of the first five years of a child's life. Scientific research shows that 90 percent of brain growth takes place in the first three years of life. This recent study shows that quality early learning and care environments can prepare young children for kindergarten.

The researchers of the NICHD study focused on the contribution childcare can make to the development of children. Their work documents more strongly than ever before that better-trained and better-educated teachers provide young children with the skills needed to succeed in school and life.

Early childcare providers must be knowledgeable about child development so that they can plan and implement a program for a diverse group of children. Low staff turnover rates in childcare settings are important. Young children need consistent care by loving adults who are trained, dedicated and fairly compensated for their time.

For many years, Good Beginnings Alliance and its partners -- the Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children, Ho'owaiwai Na Kamali'i (Native Hawaiian Early Childhood Consortium), the Hawaii Early Childhood Career Development Coalition and People Attentive to Children (PATCH) -- have been working to boost the professional development and compensation of Hawaii's early childhood teachers and providers.

This partnership, with financial support from the Department of Human Services, the Hawaii philanthropic community and members of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, recognizes that at the heart of quality early childcare is the need to make a substantial investment in the education and training of those who work with young children.

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, please take comfort in knowing that when it comes to young children there is something you can do:

>> Become more attentive to the childcare for your children.

>> Work closely with childcare providers to watch out for your child's best interests.

>> Select childcare carefully. Is the home or center licensed and accredited? Is it clean and safe? Are the children cared for in small groups? Are there enough trained providers on hand? Is the caregiver down on the floor with the children? Does the place make you and your child happy? Can you visit at anytime? Is your child engaged while there?

If you look at childcare with a critical eye, you will be able to judge whether it is the best place for your child. Do not let yourself get swept away with negative feelings or guilt over the latest scientific report. Use the information to motivate you to ensure that your children are in a safe place and loved when you can't be with them.

Elisabeth Chun is executive director
of the Good Beginnings Alliance.

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