“Appropriate” Staff:Child Ratios in “Quality” Daycare: A Politically Sensitive Topic (broken link)

Articles and Research by Kids First—Volume 2 (July 18, 2005)

By Helen Ward, President, Kids First Parent Association of Canada ©

The tax-funded daycare lobby publicly admit quality in daycare is bad:

They insist predictably that the solution is more public money for INSPECTING and STUDYING daycares, and for TRAINING and PAYING staff. They don’t publicize the obvious fact that the number of children staff are responsible for—staff:child RATIO—is too high, and that is the main reason quality is poor.

In a rare admission of the concern by daycare advocate and researcher, Gillian Doherty, deeply buried in a tax-funded web site we read: “Ratios must be such as to allow for more than simply good custodial care” (http://www.excellence-earlychildhood.ca/documents/Gillian_Doherty_ANG.pdf p. 10).

And similarly in the recommendations of the large You Bet I Care! study: “All provincial and territorial governments must continue to regulate and enforce group sizes and adult:child ratios at levels consistent with those demonstrated by research as being associated with the provision of quality child care programs” (p. xiv)

But they NEVER say clearly what such ratios are.

EXCEPTION #1: the You Bet I Care! study gives a clue in a footnote to the above recommendation: “see Canadian Child Care Federation [CCCF] 1991 p. 9 for recommendations, based on research literature, for adult:child ratio and group size by age group.” (p. xvi)

I’ll have to order it because this paper is NOT available on the (tax-funded) CCCF website or on the otherwise comprehensive and voluminous free online library of the (tax-funded) Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU).

Why not? Why is the info about ratios so hidden? Is this another intentional burying of scientific data essential to creating sound policy? Probably—it usually is not due to mere oversight that the public is kept in the dark.

EXCEPTION #2: Ms Doherty, in another deeply buried paper, provides a chart that hints at what “appropriate” might mean (in Chap VI of The Great Child Care Debate http://www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/op7/op7.pdf p. 47). (see related Blog)

1996. Gillian Doherty. Childcare Resource and Research Unit (University of Toronto) – research paper (PDF): “The Great Child Care Debate: The long-term effects of non-parental child care

This paper shows that ratios are already over the acceptable numbers (e.g. 1:8 instead of 1:2 for 1 year olds). Yet they are being increased. Are we heading for Sweden’s ratios now soaring up to 22:1 for one year olds? (see related Blogs)

Daycare lobbyists never suggest in their writings that the current ratios be lowered or even maintained. Likewise for the related issue of “group size” (the number of children in the group with one or more staff). Why?

Why are daycare lobbyists unwilling to apply their research in this area to the policies they create? Why don’t they insist on scientifically defensible ratios as a condition for government funding for daycare?

Why are they willing to sacrifice children’s well-being?

Quality advocates are likely sincerely concerned and maybe some of them do insist. But that particular perspective is obviously not the one government is listening to when it comes to putting the words and numbers on the papers.

Clearly, the stated goal of improving children’s developmental outcomes through better “early learning and child care” is easily sacrificed because children’s well-being is not a goal at all. That goal is simply the most publicly marketable one. And it gets many nice people’s—and especially academics’—needed stamp of approval for legislation that turns out to be not so nice at all for babies and for children.

“Quality” care and children’s “Development” is the spin, the sugar-coating for the real and complimentary goals of increasing corporate profits and de-constructing the role of parents in child rearing.

More on this in another Blog.

Helen Ward ©

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