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Two Studies Link High-Quality Day Care and Child Development

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Child-care centers that employ qualified workers in manageable settings can significantly improve a child's intellectual and emotional development, two studies released last week show.

"Parents want a warm, caring relationship for their child but don't always see the connection between the training and education level of staff" and a child's development, said Ellen Galinsky, a co-president of the Families and Work Institute, a New York City-based government-research group that conducted the studies.

Ms. Galinsky said she hopes the studies will be a wake-up call to Republican Congressional leaders who are moving to overhaul federal child-care programs. The House last month approved a welfare-reform bill that would consolidate nine federal child-care programs into one block grant to states and keep funding for the grant at the combined 1994 level for the nine programs. (See Education Week, 3/1/95.)

Supporters of the House plan have pointed to a recent study that showed that most child-care facilities offer mediocre services. The report, compiled by researchers at several universities, found that four out of 10 infants and toddlers are placed in settings that fail to meet their health and safety needs. (See Education Week, 2/8/95.)

Investment Pays

But, the authors of the reports argue that while most child-care facilities may be of questionable quality, investment in efforts to improve child-care programs substantially benefits children.

In the "Family Child Care Training Study," researchers evaluated 130 child-care providers at three sites in California, Texas, and North Carolina. The workers were given a minimum of 15 hours of training, usually including classes in business, health and safety, nutrition, and discipline.

Children placed with the trained providers were found to be more engaged in activities and more attached to their providers than those placed with untrained workers. The trained workers were found to have a greater commitment to their jobs, and 97 percent of them reported higher incomes after training.

The second study found that increasing the teacher-child ratios in child-care centers can significantly improve a child's intellectual and emotional development.

In the "Florida Child Care Quality Improvement Study," researchers investigated 150 licensed child-care programs in four counties in the state. In 1992, Florida mandated broad changes in its child-care programs, which included setting a 1-to-4 teacher-child ratio for infants, and a 1-to-6 teacher-child ratio for toddlers.

The Florida study found that the children in the more intimate settings were more attached to their teachers and "engaged in more complex play" than children in centers with higher teacher-child ratios. Language proficiency and behavior among those children in smaller groups also improved dramatically, the study found.

The child-care debate continues in the Senate this month with lawmakers expected to work on the Republicans' welfare-reform bill.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., praised the child-care studies in a statement last week, saying that they "add to the volumes of evidence that quality child-care programs are successful in preparing our kids for achievement" and need to be supported.

Both studies were funded by major foundations and businesses. The Florida study also was funded by the state's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and the South Florida Institute for At-Risk Infants, Children and Youth, and Their Families.

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