Daycare Dis-information Buster: Daycare is Not Medicare—Comparing Apples and Oranges

Helen Ward
Kids First Parent Association of Canada

Daycare lobbyists attempt to sell the idea of a national daycare system by comparing it to our very popular universal public medical insurance system. Most Canadians are glad that they can get medical treatment on an affordable and equitable basis when they have a medical problem.

But a daycare system and our medical insurance system have nothing in common. Compare:

1. Child Care is Not Brain Surgery: Do-It-Yourself is OK

Few can set their own broken bones or do their own brain surgery; that’s why we seek medical experts. It takes years of special training, a specialized environment and tools. But parents are able to care for their children themselves, with the involvement of their likewise non-specialist family and neighbours. And they can provide the environment and tools: homes, gardens, parks, libraries, forests, pools, shops, streets, kitchens, tables, crayons, pets, etc.

2. Children are Not Cancer

The medical system is an INSURANCE program: when something bad happens, it’s there when you NEED it to prevent financial ruin from medical costs. We also pay for fire fighters. “S… happens”—it could happen to any one. But children are not a crisis, a disaster, an emergency or an undesirable condition.

3. Daycare Logistics Create the Need for Training

According to daycare lobbyist, Dr Gillian Doherty, in “The Great Child Care Debate: the Long Term Effects of Non-Parental Child Care Debate” (http://www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/op7/op7.pdf), daycare staff and not parents need training only because daycare staff have to manage large groups of non-related children whom they do not know. So daycare logistics —and not child care itself—creates the need for training. Daycare workers training may improve the work they do because more training makes them more likely to be committed to and better paid for the job. So they may not quit as quickly as an untrained person. Not quitting means more continuity of care worker, and that continuity improves quality and benefits children. Responding sensitively to a child’s cues is what makes quality care. ECE training cannot make a person more capable of loving, hugging, holding, comforting, reading to, talking to, diapering, and knowing individual children when there are too many to care for. They only have two arms.

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4. People Have Always Sought Medical Help from Specialists but Only the Very Wealthy Have Hired Child Care Workers

People from all cultures and classes have always sought the help of medicine men and women: shamans, healers, acupuncturists, herbalists, leeches, barbers, midwives, doctors, etc. But only the very wealthy have sought paid full-time child care. For the rest, parents along with extended family and their fellow “villagers” did this work.

5. All Children Need Care 24/7/365

Medical specialists spend short intensive periods of time to intervene in some problem. But care work is all the time. Daycares do not cover all the hours. Parents do the bulk of the care work even when they use full-time daycare.

6. We can Also Regulate Child Care Ourselves

Most of us need the protection from quacks provided by professional licensing agencies when seeking or monitoring medical treatment—we cannot handle the responsibility of testing and approving surgeons ourselves. But when parents don’t want to or can’t do child care themselves—or want a special instructor of some type—they are able to find and regulate it themselves. In fact, government brochures INSIST that parents are the ones responsible for monitoring their child’s daycare. This does not mean industry facilities should not have basic inspections and strict limits to staff:child ratios.

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7. It’s About Relationships Not Technque

A comatose person could receive excellent medical treatment from a total stranger she never sees, who knows nothing about her, who might even dislike her: what is required is technical skill and equipment. But a child does not do well when cared for by someone who does not CARE about them. CARE-feeling is needed for optimal “sensitive, responsive, nurturing” CARE-doing. Care work can only be excellent if the relationship between the child and their adults is excellent and on-going. What is required is LOVE, TIME TOGETHER, CONTINUITY, GOOD INSTINCTS and INTUITION.

8. Relationship People are Not Replacable Parts

When the syringe is used up, at the end of a nursing shift or when the paramedic retires, it is good to replace them. It is not a problem. But relationships are idiosyncratic, intimate, possessive, personal. They are not like system parts that can be replaced with other parts. They are not like technique specialists who train in order to become uniform and interchangeable: it’s not personal, it’s professional.

But there is no substitute for a mother, father, friend, or grandparent. Attachment—love—is the brain’s basis for learning for young children. But children can be hurt if they are attached to a paid staff person: she will change jobs or they will be moved to a different facility. Forming relationships is an essential human endeavour. But love relationships with such care workers are likely to become a source of pain for the child.

Suggested Reading

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain by Sue Gerhardt

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Matter by Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Mate

The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish by T. Berry Brazelton & Stanley Greenspan