Many Texans watched in horror on their smart phones, Facebook feeds or local news this past week the video of a Plano child care provider carelessly tossing and pushing toddlers under her supervision.
We gasped here in Dallas-Fort Worth and across Texas — and the rest of the nation did, too.
The viral online video also was shown on the Today Show and other national television news outlets.
How could actions like this happen at a licensed child care center?
Parents as consumers need and deserve a guide on how to recognize and find quality child care.
Texas should help.
Decades ago, child care became a national need. Licensed child care businesses flourished as women joined the workforce.
Child care may have begun as a support for working parents, but today, early care and education are much more.
Brain scientists, researchers, educators and even economists agree: The first five years of children’s lives have tremendous impact on their future well-being.
Quality child care must fundamentally ensure a child is safe from harm while away from parents’ direct care and supervision.
It can be much more.
Children’s early experiences impact the developing brain and the developing child.
A quality early childhood environment in child care teaches the important activities of growing up, such as playing and sharing, and values such as empathy and creativity.
Warm relationships with an adult caregiver guide the young child toward developing strong emotional bonds and social-emotional skills.
Quality child care fundamentally supports a growing child’s health.
And as we’ve all heard, quality early education and care is foundational to a child’s school readiness.
Quality child care, however, is not easy to find.
Many parents are not sure what to look for and can be overly impressed with buildings and sales materials versus analyzing the stuff that matters.
Thirty-nine states offer a child care quality rating system, and most allow any licensed child care facility to be quality-rated.
Texas is not among those states.
Our state does have a rating system for child care, but currently its reach is only to facilities that accept state-funded child care subsidies.
In Tarrant County, there are 1,255 licensed child care providers, but only 98 are rated on the Texas Rising Star child care rating system.
That’s only 7.8 percent that are quality-rated.
Dallas County doesn’t fare much better at 8.2 percent that are quality-rated.
Without a reliable star rating to communicate the quality of a child care program, parents are left as uniformed consumers. Buyers beware.
We can do better.
It’s time for Texas to better inform parents.
Child care is incredibly expensive, even unaffordable to many.
In Texas, child care on average costs 21 percent of a single mother’s income.
Many families spend more on child care in the young years than they do on a public university in the child’s college years.
Parents deserve a simple way to identify quality child care in our communities.
It’s time to expand the current Texas Rising Star child care rating and quality improvement system to include all licensed child care.
Kara Waddell is president/CEO of Child Care Associates in Fort Worth.