The U.S. Is Not the Only Nation with Child-Care Problems

by Colette Moran

The New Republic had a heart-wrenching story about the state of child care in the U.S. While unfortunately it did not address what we can do about so many working mothers having problems securing affordable daycare because of lack of support from the children’s fathers, the article did offer these sobering statistics.

About 8.2 million kids – about 40 percent of children under five – spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent…

A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of [child care] operations to be “fair” or “poor” – only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard.

Proportionally, about 9 percent of all reported SIDS deaths should take place in child care. The actual number is twice that. And while overall SIDS fatalities declined after a nationwide education campaign, the death rate in child care held steady.

This isn’t just a problem here. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote a response for Forbes about the myths of French childcare. He lists these four:

1. MYTH: Every parent has access to a crèche [child care]. . . . Now, to a liberal, that might point to an obvious conclusion: build more crèches! But to a conservative, it points to the quasi law of nature that public provision of valuable services will lead to rationing (and thence, corruption) because public services do not have the built-in mechanism for balancing supply and demand that well-functioning markets do. . . .

2. MYTH: French crèches are a wonderful environment for kids. . . . Regardless of whether “French parenting” is “better” than “American parenting” . . . a public day care system that would conform to the legitimate preferences of American parents would be an even more expensive and unlikely proposition. . . .

3. MYTH: Crèche staff are well paid and highly credentialed. . . . The diploma that is required to work at a crèche is a “CAP” in early childhood. The CAP is a secondary vocational diploma, which is normally taught from ages 15 to 17 . . . [and] while it isn’t technically false to say that French day care workers are paid better [than] in the U.S., it doesn’t seem obvious to me that French child care workers are paid “quite well”, or better than their US colleagues in a significant, across-the-board way.

4. MYTH: French parents get generous tax breaks for hiring nannies. . . . Parents overwhelmingly pay their nannies off the book. This is what the tax break exists to remedy. It helps pay, not for the nanny’s salary, but for the payroll tax that goes on top of the nanny’s salary. So the tax breaks exists. But it’s not really meaningful. And obviously it’s a mandatory 0% loan to the French government. And the fact that the tax break had to be created is an obvious admission that there aren’t enough crèches nor does the government think it can make enough over the long term.

But Gobry feels there is one truth about French child care that the U.S. should emulate: There is bipartisan support in seeking remedies to the problem.

Details here.






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