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Parent Awareness Said Key To High-Quality Preschools

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No amount of regulatory revision, child-care experts say, can replace the parental role in assuring that the facilities to which they entrust their children are sound.

"I don't think the answer rests solely with regulation," said Carla Sanger, executive director of the Los Angeles Child Care and Development Council Inc. Given the best form of regulation, she noted, "you still would not have any substitute for parent awareness."

Parents should take special steps in choosing a day-care facility for their children, Ms. Sanger noted. She advised parents to visit the potential center, ask questions of staff members, determine whether they have been trained in child development, ask to see the license, and ask which staff members will have responsibility for their child.

Ms. Sanger also advised asking, "How accessible is the facility? Is the caregiver willing to let you visit anytime?" Once a child is enrolled in a care facility, Ms. Sanger said, parents should "drop in frequently, ask your child what he does and how he's treated, and listen to what the child has to say."

If parents believe at any time that their child is threatened in terms of safety and health, she said, they should "go to that licensing agency and inquire."

Parents' Vigilance

"The only protection parents have is their own vigilance," affirmed Gwen Morgan, a lecturer in the early-childhood department at Wheelock College and the author of several publications on day-care licensing regulations. "Licensing can protect children from negligent and low-quality care by setting some standards. But when you get to things like serious physical abuse or sexual exploitation of children--which, although it is extremely rare--can happen in day care--licensing has trouble protecting against that."

Ms. Morgan said parents should insist on being allowed to visit the center unannounced and should have access to other parents with whom they can discuss concerns. "They should never rule out the possibility that something could be wrong," she said. And if they discover that their child has been harmed in some way, parents should "start immediately comparing notes with other parents."

In an article on choosing the best day-care program for a child in the April 1984 issue of PTA Today, parents are advised to ask questions about the curriculum, staff, physical space, and family-school relations.

In addition, the editors note, parents should ask, "What is the center's philosophy of early-childhood education? ... A good center values children's learning through inquiry and active involvement and considers a child's physical, emotional, social, creative, and cognitive development."--ab

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