Kate Ellis MP writes about the children of child care that we must not forget.
If you bring the topic of child care up with any parent chances are you will be met with a knowing expression – quite often a grimace. Without a doubt, finding, choosing, understanding, and trusting our child care system can be one of the most daunting tasks a parent will face. Time and time again I hear from parents stories of dealing with the emotional dilemma which comes with returning to work, whilst struggling to find child care solutions.
The reality is, affordable, accessible child care is not only in the interests of families, but in Australia’s economic interests. We want parents, especially women, to feel empowered to return to work and it is important that child care enables them to do this.
In his State of the Nation address in January, President Obama recalled a powerful story of the value of child care. He said, “It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.” I couldn’t agree more.
Treating early education and care as a national economic priority is not just about getting parents into the workforce – it is also about acknowledging the substantial benefits which come from investing in our children. I think this argument is often lost when we discuss the economic benefits of child care – I hear a lot of discussion about increased workforce participation from child care, but I don’t hear as much about the future productivity benefits of our children who have received quality early childhood education and care.
Child care does not equal child minding – our child care educators are passionate, qualified professionals and need to be acknowledged as such. The power of quality child care to enrich a child’s development should not be underestimated, in fact, with 90% of a child’s brain development occurring in the first five years of life, making sure children are exposed to a quality early education and care system which nurtures their growth is essential.