Saturday, June 2, 2012

Child Care Choice Not as Simple as He Thinks

I usually reprint Star Tribune letters when I agree with them, but this one breaks the pattern:

Day Care

Parents are the key in monitoring kids' care

The Star Tribune has published a series of articles trying to sway public confidence in the state's two-tiered day care system ("Lack of child-care records puts kids at risk," May 30). We have become a society that seems to think that personal responsibility should be shifted to the government for everything. Selecting a day care is a choice parents make; they should take it seriously and not just rely on some public website or on inspections by the state or county. Ask for references, talk to other parents, etc. You are your child's best inspector. If you are a parent who drops off your kid without going in and talking to your provider, then you are not doing your job. We don't need unions, more regulation or more websites to make day care better. We need parents to stop shirking their responsibility and put the time and effort into knowing who is watching their children.

So many things are wrong with Mr. Anderson's thinking. First, I don't know what he means by saying the Star Tribune is "trying to sway public confidence in the state's two-tiered day care system." My impression was that the Strib was being a newspaper by investigating something in the public interest. The paper reported that more children die in family child care than in centers, both in absolute and per capita numbers. Is Mr. Anderson opposed to reporting facts?

Second, his simple-minded approach to the tough decision parents face would almost be laughable if it weren't politically motivated by his anti-government, anti-union worldview. He is clearly a believer in homo economicus, the rational man theory of human behavior. He thinks parents can get perfect information if they just put their minds to it.

However, like health care, child care decisions are not simple ones with easy choices between good and bad. References from parents who use a provider are great, but they don't tell you whether the provider is over-capacity or puts infants to sleep on their stomachs. Talking to the provider is important, but it's only one piece of information. Having ratings or assessments from an unbiased source is a good thing, and in fact, should play a key role in parents' decision-making.

In essence, Anderson is blaming the parents of every child who has died in a child care setting for their child's death. Because the child died, in his book, obviously the parents weren't careful enough, they were "shirking their responsibility." I suppose they should have insisted on surveillance cameras or something.

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