The quality of day care in the first five years of a child's life can have an impact on academic performance that lasts into high school. High-quality care — that is, warm and supportive care with cognitive stimulation — can boost a child's vocabulary, language and reading test scores until age 15, according to the most comprehensive, largest, longest-running study on child care in the United States.
But low-quality care can result in behavior problems, such as acting out and getting into fights, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found.
From coping with smoking caregivers to juggling financial hardships, Msnbc.com readers shared their experiences in the sometimes frustrating hunt for good child care.
While inattentive caregivers allowed one reader's child to be “constantly bitten by another child”, another fondly recalls "Miss Jackie" who helped the young ones learn to read.
One parent sums it up, calling the child care quest “absolutely the most stressing thing about being a working parent.”
Some comments have been edited for length.
I went back to work when my daughter was 6 mos. old. My neighbor took care of her until she was one year old. Then my neighbor, who was a lovely older lady, moved away. I then looked around for more good child care. I was fortunate to find a daycare run by ladies at a church. They provided a nice clean environment, read to the children, and gave a hot lunch every day followed by naptime and then playtime until the parents came to pick them up. My daughter was there until time to go to public kindergarten and first grade. I was very happy with the nursery school at the church and the care the children were given. I probably would do it the same way if I had to do it again. I don't regret the fact that I went back to my job, I did have feelings of guilt, but I justified it to myself because I felt that my daughter learned to socialize with other children and that it was important to have my salary coming in for our family.
Kathryn Baker, Sarasota, Fla.
I had a unique and wonderful day care experience. I attended a small day care that was run at the woman's house and was located right down the street from my home. Miss Jackie had us all reading at very young ages; I read at age 3. There was a deaf child attending and we all learned sign language so we could play with her. This woman has since lost a lot of weight and become a motivational speaker, so she was obviously a pretty special person. I hate to hear people talking negatively about all day care centers; I am an example of a child that had a fun, educational, and loving experience. At 35 years old, I still remember "Miss Jackie" very fondly.
It all depends where you live. When my first child was born, I lived in Queens, NY. I used a babysitter from ther neighborhood. When I moved to Texas, my choices exploded. (New York's child care choices are abyssmal!!!) I now had places like Primrose, Kindercare, and Creme de la Creme. When my second child was born, I still used a babysitter when he was an infant though...I was still more comfortable with that option....I cross-referenced with the state licensing agency though for violations. I've been very happy...
Child care is absolutly the most stressing thing about being a working parent. Every country in the world has some sort of subsidized child care programs...except the USA...High quality child care is expensive and a 2 income household is mandatory...with one of those incomes going almost exclusively to child care...and good luck if you have 2 kids in daycare...any mom who works already KNOWS quality care is important...how many millions of MY tax payer dollars was spent on stupid this study????...maybe ASK a few million parents what THEY THINK!!!
I reenrolled to finish my undergraduate degree in autumn quarter of 2004, 2 years after my son was born. We turned to various agencies for assistance (C.A.M.P., ULMS, King County) and DSHS. DSHS refused to assist us because we were married, the father (me) lived in the household and I was not working. Had we not been married, lived elsewhere, or working then we would have received assistance. This situation forced us to look for the cheapest and most reliable daycare. We looked at multiple daycares, ruling out Montessori’s, Daycare Center’s, Center-Based programs etc. due to cost. Our only option was In-Home providers, a few we experienced to be good and others not at all and these are the few we actually able to enroll our child in.
We experienced providers smoking around the children, some rushing out to bingo and gambling, t.v. sitting (no curriculum), dirty homes, un-regular diaper changing schedules, etc. It was difficult on us because our son came home with ring worm, diaper rashes and other sicknesses which translated to medical care. My son suffered social problems and by the time he got into a structured pre-school classroom, we had discipline problems in which we were called almost daily. Fortunately for us we had a pre-school and kindergarten teachers who were patient and able to cultivate his strengths while teaching him classroom etiquette. However, my wife and I were a constant in reinforcing what was taught in school. I cannot say that about other working parents who may be hourly, work two jobs, do not know the language, or simply don’t know how to support teachers/administrators in what is being done at school.
My daughter stacy was overdosed by cough medicine at daycare in Mesquite They called me and said Pick up your daughter she is non responsive and then at a day care in Garland a little boy stepped on her arm while she was watching TV. whe went all day with a broke arm...Finding a good Day-Care is Hard for your most precious treasures.Your Babies..
Tamra Kempf, Rowlett,Tex.
I've been very lucky with searching for child care. I actually used Craigslist for the first two times. When my last provider said she was going to go back to school, I was unsure who my daughter would go to. I was due with our 2nd daughter and I needed to find a new provider who would take both a toddler and an infant. A good friend had opened a home day care and although she wasn't going to take infants, she took both of my girls. I couldn't be happier with my decision! My girls are thriving. Our friend does a lot of educational activities and home cooks all of their meals. We're very happy with our child care situation.
Kimberly, M., San Antonio, Tex.
My daughter was constantly being bitten by another child... They refused to remove the biter .... We pulled her out of the day care shortly after she was bit hard enough to draw blood.
Justin Cummings, Alamogordo, N.M.
The first 2 months of our daughter's birth we had a relative that looked after her, but then one day, she told us she was moving that weekend. We literally had the weekend to find a childcare provider. We found a lady who had a daycare in her home. My daughter stayed with her for 2 months before she called on a Friday and said she no longer wanted to care for her because she cried. Babies cry. We decided to go with a daycare. It has been 6 months and she seems to be doing fine there. The ladies there like and play with the children. Occasionally my daughter gets sick, but that's just part of the daycare game. We are considering moving her to a different daycare once she turns 18 months to get more individualized attention. We think a Montessori school would be good, but at $1,000 a month, it is going to be a challenge!
Child care is not affordable for everyone. Currently you can set aside $5,000 per family for childcare expenses (pre-tax) under the Flex Dependen Care tax code. My daughter is currently attending an average daycare part time and even with the $5,000 allowance, we are still paying out of pocket. I can't imagine how other parents are doing it.
I was on a wait list for a few good quality child care centers near our home before my daughter was born. Luckily one became available one month before I returned to work. The one we really wanted to get her in finally had an opening when she was 16 months old. We moved her at that time because the center was nationally accredited. At three she is learning to read, knows her numbers and can count to 30 and developmentally is ahead of others her age. Working full-time, I would not be able to work with her to get her to the stage she is now. I credit the quality care she receives. While it is extremely expensive and we have to cut back our expenses in other areas, it is worth it to get her the quality care.
Suzanne Brillault-Jensen, Seattle,Wash.
My husband and I are fortunate enough to have decent paying jobs which enabled us to build an inlaw apartment. My mom moved in to watch our children. It's the best option out there. Our children have never been to daycare. My kids love having Nana so close. Nana loves being part of their everyday lives. My husband even appreciates having Mom with us to help out. This is why good paying jobs are so important in this country. We don't need the government to help subsidize childcare or elder care and it keeps our family close. Thanks Mom! I love you!
Risa Dennison, Maine