June 01, 2016

"We need to consider childcare as a shared responsibility for communities and countries to tackle together"

Molly Curtiss

​Research Consultant, Theirworld

Photo: Adriane Ohanesian Photo: Adriane Ohanesian

Today for Global Day of Parents, Theirworld is releasing a new  brief on the nexus between childcare and early childhood development, outlining both the challenges and ways to move forward on ensuring all children have access to affordable, quality care.

While the importance of education for all is easily agreed on, childcare remains a seriously misunderstood and overlooked issue, pervaded by the misconception that parents – particularly mothers – can afford to provide at-home care for their children full time. For many families, this is far from reality.

Of course, parents will always remain important caregivers in their children’s lives, but for many families, childcare presents a significant burden and a serious problem to solve. A substantial portion of parents around the globe do not have the luxury of choosing to stay home with their children. In situations where both parents must work to support the family, in a single parent household, or when parents are absent, ill, or deceased, others must fill the childcare gap.

Finding quality, affordable childcare, however, can be extremely difficult, particularly in developing countries. For poor families, the high price of formal childcare can keep it permanently out of reach. Some mothers try to balance the competing demands on their time by taking jobs in the informal sector and bringing their children with them or working from home, even though these jobs often pay poorly. Others are forced to settle for lower quality informal care or for leaving their children unsupervised. Sometimes older siblings are pulled out of school to care for younger brothers or sisters, cutting their education and their future prospects short.[1]

High quality childcare supports healthy physical, mental, and emotional development in the first years of life and helps prepare young children for success in school,[2] but low quality care can do serious, long-lasting harm to a child’s growth and development. As usual, the poorest children are most likely to be left unsupervised or in inadequate care environments, preventing them from reaching their full potential. Without a good start in life, a child can have fallen behind before she even gets to first grade, making catching up nearly impossible.[3]

As we celebrate the special relationship between parents and children today, it's time to acknowledge that truly supporting parents requires expanding access to affordable quality childcare. This means we can’t keep dismissing childcare as a problem for parents to solve alone, but need to start considering it as a shared responsibility for communities and countries to tackle together.

[1] Samman, Emma, Presler-Marshall, Elizabeth, Jones, Nicola, Bhatkal, Tanvi, Melamed, Claire, Stavropoulou, Maria and John Wallace. (2016). “Women’s Work: Mothers, children and the Global Childcare Crisis.” Overseas Development Institute.

[2] Tresch Owen, Margaret. (2011). “Childcare and the Development of Young Children (0-2).” Child Care – Early Childhood Education and Care: Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

[3] Hart, Betty and Todd R. Risley. (2003). “The Early Catastrophe: The 300 Million Word Gap by Age 3.” American Educator: American Federation of Teachers.

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