WASHINGTON, DC - A new nationwide poll released today reveals that, more than any other aspect of child care, parents are concerned about its quality. More than half of the parents surveyed ranked quality as their greatest concern. Cost ranked second. While parents, naturally, first associate quality with loving and nurturing caregivers, many consider specialized training of caregivers a leading indicator of quality care.
Moreover, the majority of parents logically assume that standards are in place in child care programs to ensure that children are safe. Parents overwhelmingly think that caregivers are trained in child development and safety and undergo a background check, and that child care programs are inspected.
This is simply not true in too many states. For example, for child care centers, only 12 states require caregivers to have training in child development before working with children, and only 10 require all inspections to be unannounced.
In February, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) conducted a nationwide survey of parents to better understand what they consider when they are looking for child care, what they expect and want from child care, and what barriers they face in obtaining high-quality child care. NACCRRA released a report on that survey today: "Parents' Perceptions of Child Care in the United States: Findings from a National Survey of Parents.
The results of this survey should be a wake-up call to policy-makers, says Linda K. Smith, NACCRRA's Executive Director. Parents need child care, and they don't want just any care; they want high-quality care. They want their children in a safe and healthy learning environment that prepares them to enter school ready to succeed."
More than nine in 10 parents surveyed favor requiring all child care to meet basic standards of quality, that caregivers be trained both before and while working with children, and that child care programs be regularly inspected. Most parents (92 percent) also favor setting quality standards for all types of child care to help children get ready to succeed in school.
"NACCRRA calls on states to take specific actions to help ensure that children are both safe and learning while their parents work," says Smith. "In particular, we recommend that states require caregiver training in child development and safety, background checks with fingerprinting, and quarterly, unannounced inspections of all child care programs."
The quality of care a child receives during the first five years of life is critical because 90 percent of brain development occurs during those years. With nearly 12 million children under the age of 5 in the United States in some type of child care arrangement every week, the importance of quality, affordable care is paramount.
A previous series of focus groups, also conducted by NACCRRA, brought to light the fact that the high costs of child care are forcing many parents to make sacrifices in the quality of care that their children receive. The new poll confirms that parents struggle with the costs of child care - for most working parents, child care is a necessity, not a choice. Three-quarters of parents think that making child care more affordable is one of the most important ways to help working families.
NACCRRA's poll represents 592 parents nationwide who have at least one child under age 6. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish. Responses to the poll have an overall margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent. Respondents to the poll are representative of the overall population of parents of young children, based on geography and key demographic criteria.
To download a free copy of NACCRRA's "Parents' Perceptions of Child Care" poll report, visit www.naccrra.org. Parents interested in learning more about quality child care and finding it in their communities can use NACCRRA's Child Care Aware resources at www.childcareaware.org.