Eighty percent of human brain development occurs during the first 36 months of life, and early surroundings can either encourage or impede effective cognitive growth. Sixty-five percent of mothers with very young children (under age 3) are employed; therefore, many infants and toddlers across the country and in Shelby County spend a substantial amount of time in the care of providers others than their parents (The Urban Child Institute [TUCI], 2009).
Quality child care benefits children and their families. First, parents are able to retain regular employment and provide for their children when affordable daycare is accessible. Second, enriching early care can advance children’s intellectual and social/emotional skills, ensuring that they reach the kindergarten classroom prepared and ready for academic success (TUCI, 2009).
Recent research from the University of Chicago suggests that early care programs have an often unnoticed capacity- linking parents with each other as unofficial consultants in parenting practices while also connecting them to organizations that can assist with the obstacles of child rearing. According to the study of 3,500 mothers in 20 U.S. cities, child care programs are regularly as beneficial for the parents as for the kids in terms of building companionable relationships and forming a support system. Early care programs become headquarters where parents can build “social capital”- the associations they require to assist with issues such as child behavior and locating quality medical care and schools. Child care programs that coordinated parent gatherings and had rigid drop-off and pick-up times where parents could connect had particularly effective parent support systems (Goldsmith, 2009).
“Parents come to school to find someone to care for their children, and they end up learning ways of taking care of each other…When you are a parent, particularly a first-time parent, the best resource you have is another parent” (Small, quoted in Goldsmith, 2009, p.1).
Early care administrators and teachers can easily encourage relationship building among enrolled families (Raising Children Network, 2009):
- Invite parents to a welcoming party at the beginning of the school year.
- Send home a weekly newsletter informing parents about classroom events and upcoming activities.
- Set up informal, monthly meetings between parents and teachers. Invite mothers and fathers to bring a packed lunch and join staff for a casual question and answer session.
- Formally recognize parent contributions (through a bulletin board or notes sent home).
- Establish positive communication with all families.
For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.
Goldsmith, B. (August 30, 2009). Child care helps parents make invaluable friends too: study.
Reuters Life! http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE57U0E720090831
Involving parents in school and child care. 2006- 2009 Raising Children Network (Australia).
The Urban Child Institute. (2009). The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County: DataBook. Memphis, TN: The Urban Child Institute.