Early Years Column

January 17, 1990 4 min read

International Business Machines Corporation is investing $22 million to establish a “Child Care Resource and Development Fund” to improve child care in communities where i.b.m. employees live and work.

Besides funding the development and expansion of child-care centers, ibm will recruit and train providers who care for children in their homes, develop programs for school-age and mildly ill children, and offer aid for licensing and accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The program--which will also boost aid to defray the cost of adoptions, test flexible work schedules, and fund “elder care” projects--aims to offer workers “the flexibility they need to pursue and advance their careers while minimizing the impact on their personal lives,” said i.b.m.'s chairman, John Akers.

Johnson & Johnson also has joined with the n.a.e.y.c. to develop a pilot project to improve early-childhood programs for disadvantaged 3- to 5-year-olds. The company will give the association $50,000 this year for grants to as many as 10 centers.

If successful, the pilot may be a “major funding project for Johnson & Johnson in 1991,” said Herbert T. Nelson, director of corporate contributions.

A Virginia legislator plans to bestow the “Procrustes Pedagogical Award” on the school system with the highest kindergarten failure rate in the state.

Named for the mythical Greek giant who placed victims on a bed and stretched them or lopped off their limbs to make them fit, the award’s purpose is to “get people thinking” about practices that brand young children as failures.

Delegate Mary Marshall, who will base her award on 1989 data, said kindergarten failure rates in Virginia districts ranged from zero to 24.2 percent in 1988.

“There is an enormous body of research built up over 10 or 15 years that a lot of people aren’t paying attention to,” she said, citing studies showing a high correlation between retention and dropping out of school.

She also wants to see reforms in curricula that are now based on “a set of hurdles children have to clear” rather than on developmental principles.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer of Maryland has launched a series of programs to mark 1990 as the “Year of the Infant.”

The project calls for a “national model infant center” that would link agency resources to offer early intervention and education, health care, child care, and parent education.

His plan also proposes making foreclosed houses available as shelters for babies with aids, enhancing drug treatment for pregnant women, and serving more women eligible for the federal Women, Infants, and Children food program.

The plan also calls for increased efforts to coordinate services for infants and toddlers and enroll at-risk pregnant women in prenatal-care programs. It will also sponsor contests, conferences, “community baby showers,” telephone hotlines, and television and library programs to raise public awareness and encourage parents to invest in state-backed “mini-bonds” to save for a college education.

U.S. performance on several “key indicators of children’s well-being” merits an “F,” says the Children’s Defense Fund.

In an end-of-the-decade report card on the status of children, c.d.f. said the United States ranked 19th in the world in infant-mortality rates, 15th in childhood immunization against polio, and 22nd in the mortality rate for children under age 5.

The group also said the U.S. had the highest child-poverty rate in a study of eight industrialized nations, and that it is the only industrialized nation other than South Africa without universal health coverage for children and a parental-leave policy.

In rating state investments and progress in aiding children, the c.d.f. gave only six states a grade of 50 percent or more; 21 earned 25 percent or less.

A similar ranking released by the Washington-based Center for the Study of Social Policy shows that the share of children in poverty rose in all but three states between 1979 and 1987.

The report, part of a $5-million data-gathering effort funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said many women still do not receive prenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy and that the percentage of low-birthweight babies rose in 25 states and the District of Columbia between 1980 and 1987.

Americans can take a lesson in child care from the French, conclude U.S. experts who took a two-week study tour.

A report to be released by the 14-member panel this month notes that French law gives working mothers paid leave during the last six weeks of pregnancy and for 10 weeks after childbirth and adoptions. In addition, good, affordable infant-toddler care is available to most working parents; free preschools or publicly subsidized private schools offer comprehensive programs for 3- to 5-year-olds; staff and center directors are highly trained; and most centers are licensed.

The United States would have to triple its child-care spending to provide equivalent resources, which France finances through a combination of national and municipal funds and taxes.

“A Welcome for Every Child: How France Achieves Quality in Child Care: Practical Ideas for the United States,” is available from the French-American Foundation, 41 E. 72nd St., New York, N.Y. 10021.


A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 1990 edition of Education Week as Early Years Column