May 29, 2009

Publication: Offaly Topic

Date: Thursday, April 30, 2009Page: 22

Headline: High risk gambling with our children?

 A new report issued by UNICF on early childhood edu-

cation and care raises some serious questions about the

policies being pursued by many governments, includ-

ing our own. The basic point it makes is that encourag-

ing policies which have the effect of separating

children from their parents for large periods of the day

at a very early age is undesirable. Entitled The Child

Care Transition, the report says that after centuries of

being a predominantly private, family affair, the care of

very young children is now becoming, to a significant

degree, an out-of-home activity, with governments and

private enterprise increasingly involved. A majority in

this rising generation are spending a large part of their

early childhoods in some form of child care.

Describing this as a "highstakes gamble with today's

children and tomorrow's world" the report warns that

in some children, the long-term effects may include

depression, withdrawal, inability to concentrate, and

other forms of mental health, and in even more less

obvious cases, less than optimal cognitive and linguis-

tic development, and underachievement in school. The

report" study' which notes: "The more time children spent in

child, care from birth to age four and half, the more

adults tended to rate them.,, as less likely to get along

with others, as more assertive, disobedient and as

aggressive."

The report also gives particular attention to recent

neuroscience findings wbMl confirm that "loving, sta-

ble, secure, stimulating and rewarding relationships

with family and caregivers in the earliest months and

years of life are critical for almost all aspects of a

child's development." And also that "the relationship

between infants and parents or primary caregivers is

critical to the child's emotional, psychological and cog-

nitive development."

What is disturbing about this UNICEF report is that

the problems to which it draws attention, and about

which it warns, are already visible in our society Today,

despite the current downturn, almost all our children

are far better off, materially, than any previous genera-

tion – but when one looks at the childhood problems

being encountered it is a very different story They are

clearly visible.

The real question needing asked is: has the childcare

'industy' developed in the best interests of children, or

for other reasons? The UNICEF report suggests that one

of the main drivers is economic pressures, and the push

to have more women in the workforce to boost GDP, and

give more taxes. Two thirds of all women of working

age in OECD countries now work outside the home.

Today's children are tomorrow's world, but if a system

isn't working to the long-term benefit of children, par-

ents or of communities, where are we heading?

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