Features of Quality Child Care (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on May 1, 2014

Parent Involvement

Quality child-care programs recognize the importance of parental involvement and the strong need that families feel to be fully informed about their child’s progress. In a quality program, parents are asked to share detailed information about their child as they come into care so that teachers can provide continuity with the home. Meeting prior to the child’s beginning the program can help to build the rapport between parent and teaching staff, which is essential to the success of the child-care experience. Continuing collaboration facilitates the continuity of experiences for the child and enhances the potential for meeting the child’s needs.

Collaboration relies on communication, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to establish many ways to keep families informed about their own child. Because most parents actually bring in and pick up their child at the child-care setting, every day presents an opportunity to establish a relationship between the parent and the teaching staff. Once such a relationship is established, information about what is going on with the child can be regularly shared. In infant–toddler programs, parents and teachers often record information about the child in a book that is passed back and forth between the child care setting and the home. Quality programs also schedule formal parent conferences throughout the year.

Parents also welcome opportunities to become involved in the child-care program in ways that don’t interfere with their work schedules. Making phone calls to other parents, donating recyclables, sewing smocks, or washing the sheets used at nap time are all tasks parents may be willing to do. By becoming involved in these ways, parents feel more connected to the program and more committed to supporting it. Potluck dinners, family breakfasts, workshops on parenting, and other events can also build family involvement.

Characteristics of Quality Child Care

Exemplary child-care programs do share certain characteristics that can serve as a model for others seeking to improve the quality of care for children. According to Kinch and Schweinhart (1999), a high-quality program includes the following features:

  • Financial resources. Uses financial resources beyond fees from parent, such as subsidies for low-income families and donations from individuals and foundations.
  • Creation of alliances. Forges a variety of alliances with organizations to bring additional resources. For example, a center might collaborate with a community organization on fund-raising efforts.
  • Parent education. Seeks ways to educate parents about the value of early childhood education. In doing so, parents become better consumers and are more likely to support programs.
  • Staff benefits. Seeks additional salary and other benefits for their staff. In addition, they secure adequate planning time and arrange opportunities for professional development.
  • Establishment of advisory committees. Strengthens relationships with the community by establishing a board of directors or a community advisory board.
  • Recognition of needs. Recognizes family needs and stresses, and works flexibly with families, making a program viable for parents.
  • Institutional structures. Plans for future existence through structures that promote quality, compensation, and affordability.
  • High standards. Has established policies and clearly written standards on mission, philosophy, and educational approach.

Child-care quality is essential in terms of children’s everyday experiences and their later school achievement and social interactions. When every child receives the highest quality care possible, the beneficial effects of child care will increase dramatically.

Effects of Quality Child Care

Research indicates that although the family remains the major influence on child outcomes, the quality and stability of the child care that young children receive have important effects, as well. The results of three recent longitudinal studies (Vandell & Pierce, 2003) confirm that high-quality child care can have positive effects on children’s development in a number of areas. One of these studies, the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2000) reported that the cognitive and language development of children and their social and emotional well-being are positively impacted by high-quality child care. Another of the studies (Burchinal et al., 2000) concluded that higher quality child care was associated with better cognitive development, better receptive and expressive language skills, and better functional communication skills. The third study (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 1999) followed children through two years of child care and the first 3 years of school. Their findings suggest that children from high-quality child care demonstrated better receptive language and math skills. This study and other research indicates that these positive effects on children’s development are especially significant for low-income children and those at risk for failure in school (Children’s Defense Fund, 2001). Studies have also shown that quality school-age programs play an important role in children’s school achievement and long-term success, as well as in their safety and well-being. As we have pointed out in other chapters, those who care for children make an important contribution to their lives.

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