Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 20, 2006
Que. daycare has dark side
Studies back Ottawa's reluctance to fund institutional childcare
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"Very young children require relational care."
- Helen Ward
An October study commissioned by the C.D. Howe Institute, only recently picked up by the news media, showed the Quebec program tended to heavily subsidize care for middle-and high-income families. One third of these families had previously been able to afford satisfactory private arrangements.
"The program let to a dramatic increase in the use of childcare by two-parent families," said a C.D. Howe e-brief by the study's authors Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber and Kevin Milligan.
The brief said the "proportion of children in some type of childcare increased by over 51 per cent after the introduction of the program."
During the same time period, the increase in the rest of Canada was only 16 per cent.
"We uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioural and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness," says the study, entitled Universal Childcare, Maternal Labour Supply and Family Well-Being.
"Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships."
Children have "worse outcomes" in terms of "hyperactivity, inattention, aggressiveness, motor/social skills," and are more likely to come down with sore throats and other illnesses.
"We uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioural and health dimensions."
- C.D. Howe brief
The study shows that on the plus side, more women were able to participate in the labour force - a 21-per-cent rise in participation among mothers in two-parent families - but they're paying a price for it in a higher incidence of depression.
Helen Ward, national president of Kids First Parents Association of Canada says she was not surprised by the studies. "The majority of daycare in Canada has been repeatedly assessed to be minimal to mediocre quality," she said in a telephone interview Feb. 7 from Burnaby, B.C.
Ward doesn't think the Tory plan goes far enough, but it is a "small step in the right direction."
"We feel it's very important to terminate the agreements that preferentially fund daycare over other forms of care, because it discriminates against the vast majority of families in this country," she said.
Ward points out the Quality Counts! study was done before Quebec changed the ratio from one staff for every five children to one staff for every eight.
"We're talking about children's care for very young ages," she said.
Ward says Canadians need to examine some of the agenda prompting the push for institutionalized daycare, an agenda she says will rob money from welfare programs to pressure people to find paid work.
She describes it as a form of workfare. "This is not a warm fuzzy liberal agenda," she said. "It's coming from the corporate right, including the World Bank and the Rand Corporation."
"There's an economic agenda to expand the low paid wage pool," she said, quoting several sources that look at a post-family view of society.
When Prime Minister Paul Martin touted his daycare plan, he envisioned a new system of early childhood education that would be the next medicare, a universal social program that would prepare the next generation of Canadians for a competitive world.
"The medical system is an insurance system. The daycare system is not an insurance system," Ward said.
"Most people prefer to look after their own children themselves and there's no comparison between putting a 10-year-old into school, and an infant into daycare," she said.
Ward stresses that childcare is about relationships, not technique, and that while it might not be important who gives her surgery if that individual is qualified, it is important who is looking after a child.
"Very young children require relational care," she said. "The daycare lobby rejects developmental science. They reject attachment theory. They reject the idea that children need a close bond with adults."
Ward believes politicians are under a false impression that institutionalized daycare benefits children and women are crying out for it.
"I've arranged my life and finances so I can look after my own kid. I've sacrificed well over $100,000 to do that," she said.
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