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Stevanne Auerbach Headshot

Childcare Challenges Continue

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I was deeply upset hearing the news about the tragic deaths of Marina and Robert Krim's two children in New York City. According to reports, the children were allegedly killed by their nanny. I feel pain for the family at their horrific loss.

I am upset also at the thought that anyone who cares for children, including any parent or childcare provider, would ever hurt a child in any way. Yet not a week goes by without these screaming headlines occurring somewhere not only in the USA but around the world.

The victims and the nanny are a horrific story, but they are also part of a much larger story. How to protect our children?

We must find a better way to verify the credentials of anyone who works with children -- teachers, baby sitters, childcare providers, Boy Scout leaders, clergy, boyfriends, girlfriends, or family members who care for our children.

Children are vulnerable and easy targets. They do not ask questions. They do not understand danger. They want to believe that life is good and will always be good.

When someone hurts them they are scared for life despite any psychological intervention. Bad memories do not disappear.

My book Choosing Childcare (published in 1976 and in print ever since) was the first guide written to help parents looking for childcare services. I prepared a check list of questions to ask about childcare providers. I am including that check list now to offer it again to remind each parent to think carefully before they leave their child with anyone. I suggest careful screening and follow-up.

I am upset to recall those years in Washington, D.C., working hard on childcare issues for the Federal Government that ended when then President Nixon vetoed the last bi-partisan comprehensive legislation to create a quality childcare system in this country. There were other factors at work also that caused the demise of the Office of Economic Opportunity (spearheaded by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney) the innovative agency created by John F. Kennedy set up to effectively work to fight the War on Poverty. Those terrible problems and the battles are not yet solved for those who are poor, isolated, and without resources.

Yes! Politics and children don't mix well. Men who speak on women's rights, and about their bodies, their personal decisions, their working conditions, their consistent concerns about childcare services, toys, health care, nutrition, and anything else related to children just don't understand the full impact of the role of mothers, and their ongoing struggles to sustain a livelihood, work, care for children, do housework and all the rest that must be done every day to raise a child in society in our country or anywhere else in the world. In this issue we must be united.

These are issues the entire society must solve together. Men must listen to the needs and aspirations of women and children, understand them, and respond effectively. They must not block and undermine, and they must not injure or do harm. They must find a way to support women and children for the sake of our future. This includes education, salaries, working conditions, childcare training, benefits, health care, and good nutrition. More common sense, after all, is good for the welfare of our entire society.

Here are specific points about caregivers I offer to consider when interviewing anyone being considered. The most important qualities of a successful caregiver are listed for review when you make visits or conduct interviews.

  • Are they able to talk easily with children?
  • Do they know about the special needs of each child?
  • Do the respond positively, sensitively, patiently?
  • Do they have a sense of humor?
  • Do they listen to the children and promptly answer their questions.
  • Do they encourage each child to use his or her imagination and creative skills?
  • Are they competent in what they do?
  • Do they respect the individual and cultural differences of each child?
  • Do they create a warm and loving atmosphere?
  • Do they manage discipline without spanking, threatening, shaming, or hurting
    the child?
  • Do they allow the children to work out their differences and solve problems without too much interference?
  • Is there a personal awareness of how their moods, tone of voice, and behavior affect the children's behavior?
  • Do they respect each child and family and communicate easily with the parents?
  • Do they share and respect the parents' philosophies about children?
  • Do they assist each child in developing good health habits?
  • Do they express love and care to the children?
  • Do they respond to parents' needs and keep appointments on time?
  • Do they take time to explain details?
  • Do they seem happy to have parents visit, participate or make suggestions and do they encourage such participation?
  • Do they have knowledge of child development and select appropriate activities?
  • Do they seem to feel good about themselves and the job they are doing?

It is also necessary to monitor the childcare giver once the person is hired. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is the childcare person acting strangely?
  • Do you get any sense of hostility or emotional upset?
  • How do you decide if there might be a problem?
  • Does she speak a different language? She may need someone to talk over any problem she may have difficulty in expressing directly. If she has a friend, know how to reach that person.
  • Good communications are important. Notice if the person is expressing anything unusual. Ask if you can assist in anyway. Make sure the person has regular health check ups.

Contact the childcare agency or network in your area for additional assistance and suggestions. Being always observant is important for every parent. Children require our protection, diligence and attention. Children deserve to be safe and secure. Bringing them into the world means taking total responsibility. This essential role can't be set aside at any time. ##