Carol Goar has an article in The Star titled, “Targeted child care misses mark”. In the article she details how many children are not being served because care is targeted to low income homes and children who are thought to be ‘at risk’ because they come from poverty.
Doherty, a child development psychologist, has spent 30 years as an educator, provincial policy-maker and researcher. She has just completed a study for the Institute for Research on Public Policy (www.irpp.org) that pulls together the lessons she has learned:
The first is that most developmentally delayed children come from middle-income and affluent families. The incidence may be higher among economically disadvantaged kids, but numerically, the vast majority of vulnerable children are neither poor nor distinguishable from their peers.
“Many people are unaware of this,” Doherty says. “The problem is much bigger than people realize and it cuts across income groups.”
The second is that programs designed to change the behaviour of low-income parents – to improve their child-rearing skills or get them into the workforce – have little impact on their offspring.
“These interventions may benefit parents,” Doherty says, “but they generally have negligible effects on children’s development.”
The third is that vulnerable kids do best in structured, full-day programs. Less formal types of care reduce their odds of succeeding at school and becoming healthy, self-supporting adults.
“Poor quality child care is not simply a missed developmental opportunity, it is known to be detrimental to all children’s development,” Doherty says. “Canada cannot continue to treat this service as simply a safe place for children to stay while their parents work.”
Her final overarching conclusion is that universal programs are a better investment of public funds than initiatives targeted at kids that “everybody knows will have difficulty.