Why Quality Child Care
Child development specialists have produced extensive research showing that quality early care and education has a tremendous impact on a child’s intellectual, social, and emotional development. A child’s early years are a time of fast brain growth that set the stage for lifelong learning. In fact, 90 percent of brain development occurs by the age of 5. Research findings show that quality early care and education not only influence early child outcomes, they extend to later school performance and foster productive citizens in both the workforce and society at large.
One of the most important building blocks of quality care and education is for babies, toddlers, and young children to have warm, caring adults who respond to their needs. In Alabama, nearly two-thirds of young children have all available parents in the workforce, so working families depend on child care providers to care for their children and help prepare them to succeed socially, emotionally, and academically (Deravi & Buchanan, 2013). Alabama’s Minimum Standards for Day Care Centers and Nighttime Centers provide a baseline of care for children served in licensed child care centers by addressing basic health and safety standards to ensure the children enrolled are in a safe environment with responsive teachers that support their growth and development. However, “exempt” child care centers operate uninspected and unregulated from the Minimum Standards, which means staff are not required to have criminal background checks or minimum education, training, or experience in how to care for young children.
Finally, 1 in 4 children live in poverty in Alabama (VOICES for Alabama’s Children, 2014). Research shows a persistent gap in academic achievement between students from low-income households and those from more affluent families, but the one proven solution to level the playing field and close the achievement gap is quality early care and education with well-prepared teachers. Until all child care programs in Alabama are required to meet the same standards, it will be difficult to build the high-quality early care and education necessary to support our children’s development and close achievement gaps.