Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Gap

There's a gap in early childhood that we work diligently to close.  Children who come to us from lower income homes are often at a disadvantage and programs like Head Start and Early Head Start strive to ensure that those children are offered a high quality preschool experience in an effort to close that gap.

But like any gap, there are children falling through the cracks.  The system, at times, seems designed not only to keep families from succeeding but to keep them at the status quo, at least until their youngest enter the public school system and are being educated for 8 hours of the day at no cost.  It's heartbreaking as a child care provider to see families working hard to be successful and attempt to break through what can really only be described as a glass ceiling...

Here's a quick example for ya --
I work with some amazing parents.  This particular family has 2 children and they are a family of 4.  They qualify for child care assistance and Early Head Start.  While their co-payment is manageable, it's still pretty high. This mother works hard and was recently offered a promotion.  Sadly, instead of quickly saying yes, she had to deliberate as to whether she could afford it.  What?  Afford a promotion you ask?  Indeed, because if she accepts the promotion, her child care co-payment will go up and she won't be able to afford the new cost child care & would likely, in the end, have to resign or reduce her hours to stay home with the girls.

The cost of child care isn't going down.  Sadly, many children will be forced out of the high-quality programs and into private programming (where there are no standards of quality unless they are aware of and actively involved in early childhood organizations) or staying at home with grandmas and grandpas.  Not to say there aren't great home providers, though they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. I'm left wondering and worrying about the children who may no longer qualify for child care and are left in the gap.

How do we reach into the gap and ensure that ALL children have a high quality preschool experience so they are ready for kindergarten?  With all of this focus on "school readiness," we need to ensure that our tiny humans in the gap aren't forgotten.  But how?  And who will support this mission?

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