Child Care and Media Bias

Below is an article I wrote last week about child care in America -- in response to a front page article in last week's Parade magazine (you know, that insert that arrives in Sunday newspapers across the country). Six newspapers declined to print my article.

This is but one example of how media bias works -- in this case, it's the newspapers (98% of which are left-leaning) that don't want this information out there. Is it possible they just didn't have the space to print my article or there was some other reason they didn't print it? It's possible -- but unlikely. I have a lot of experience with this -- and I can assure you the real reason is that they'd rather have the Parade magazine article, which touts a demand for universal child care, stand on its own without a rebuttal. This is the reason blogs are so vital in this country and why Internet news will someday destroy American newspapers and television.

America’s Supposed Child Care Problem

By Suzanne Venker

When it comes to child care in America, its advocates are committed to forcing a square peg into a round hole. They insist we can make universal child care work; all we have to do is turn our attention to Europe, where “high-quality child care is a right of citizenship,” writes Leslie Bennetts in this week’s Parade (7/19/09) magazine. Child care advocates routinely point out that the United States lags behind most Western nations. “In Sweden,” writes Bennetts, “all working parents are entitled to 16 months of paid leave per child, and mothers can take 480 days at 80% of their salary.” In Lithuania, “mothers can stay home and receive 100% of their pay for the child’s first year and 85% for the second year.”

For women like Bennetts, Europe’s model is the panacea for America’s supposed child care problem. That these individuals are comparing apples to oranges – since America is a capitalist nation (though we’re becoming more European every day) and Europe is largely socialist – is somehow lost on them. For a select few, Europe may be considered superior to America when it comes to child care; but the fact remains that most Americans disagree. Indeed, there are two great stumbling blocks to the push for “better and more quality child care.” The first is that most Americans simply aren’t on board with the idea. According to Necessary Compromises, the lengthy 2000 report from the research organization Public Agenda, 60% of parents of children five and under believe parents, not the government, are responsible for their children’s care -- and a whopping 72% believe they are responsible for the costs incurred. Even a majority of low-income parents believe bearing such costs is “their responsibility and not society’s.” With numbers like this, child care advocates may be banging their heads against a wall all the way to their deathbeds.

It isn’t just about money, either. When it comes to day care centers, parents of young children overwhelming concur that this environment is the least preferred option for child care -- and 62% of those who do use professional day care centers are satisfied with their current arrangements. None of this information suggests a clamoring for “more and better quality child care.”

The second stumbling block to child care advocates’ push for universal child care is the paradox of their own argument: You can’t insist upon “high-quality” care – which simply translates to paying child care workers higher wages -- and simultaneously make child care more affordable for parents. Making child care affordable for everyone who wants it creates more demand for staff; and the higher the demand, the less child care providers will be paid. Supply and demand requires an economic equilibrium of price and quantity. Thus, an increase in the number of workers tends to result in lower wages. Clearly, the only way to make child care more affordable in this country is to keep the demand at a minimum. Rather than opening it up to every parent in America, it should remain in place for those who are truly in need – which, incidentally, was its original intent. Even Dr. Stanley Greenspan, the eminent child psychologist who has devoted his life to early childhood development, has said the only way to create good quality child care is to have fewer parents using it.

Finally, there’s the personal toll. Not only does greater demand for child care result in lower quality, it results in fewer children getting their needs met. There isn’t a parent in the world who doesn’t know that very young children require vast amounts of time and attention. No child can receive this time and attention at a day care center -- if for no other reason than sheer numbers. Because of this, most parents in America (70% to be exact) believe having a parent at home most of the time is the best possible scenario. In her article, Ms. Bennetts quotes Art Rolnick, senior vice president and director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (though why she does is anyone’s guess), who says this: “Some policymakers say early childhood education is the job of the parents, but I don’t think they understand how critical brain development in the early childhood years is to success later in life.”

Early brain development may be important, but it certainly isn’t at risk when young children stay home with their parents. What is at risk when parents and children are apart is a child's emotional development. “The infant’s emotional security is what’s important, and for the infant, a mother is the environment – pre-natally and post-natally. As a society, we are uncomfortable accepting this – but it is a biological fact,” writes Diane Fisher, Ph.D. in a 1997 congressional testimony. “Intellectual skills are more resilient and can be compensated for. An infant can recover from a deprived intellectual environment much easier than she can recover from emotional abandonment or neglect.” An inconvenient truth, to be sure -- but a truth nonetheless.

Universal child care can never be a success. It isn’t feasible. It isn’t practical. It isn’t even ethical. "The absence of quality care is one of the main drivers for people leaving the workforce,” says Diane Klein, president of corporate voices for Working Families.

Maybe so. But I feel confident this is a reality most Americans can live with.

1 Response to “Child Care and Media Bias”:

  1. shevrae says:

    My sister-in-law tried to put her son in "quality" day care for just 12 hours a week so she could work part time. According to people at the center, he cried the whole time he was there, and after a week he was sick. So she took time off until he was better. A week later, he was sick again. More time off. Finally, he got an ear infection and they had to cancel their Christmas plans, since he couldn't fly. That was the end of the daycare.