High-Quality Child Care Again Linked to Fewer Juvenile Arrests

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High-quality child care not only prepares children for school, but can also be an effective crime-fighting strategy, says a new report from leading law-enforcement officials.

Follow Up
"America's Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy" is available online at www.fightcrime.org.

"Good educational child care is one of our most powerful weapons against crime, while poor-quality child care multiplies the risk that children will grow up to be a threat to every American family," says the report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a Washington-based anti-crime organization led by police chiefs, sheriffs, police association presidents, prosecutors, and survivors of violent crime.

The group, along with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the nationally known Harvard Medical School pediatrician, presented its findings to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at a White House press conference late last month.

A recently completed study of 20 child-parent centers in Chicago, serving 3- and 4-year olds, is a highlight of the report.

The study compared the juvenile-arrest records of 1,000 18-year-olds who had been enrolled in those centers as children with those of similarly at-risk youths who had received full-day kindergarten, but not the preschool and parent-coaching program provided by the centers.

Twenty-six percent of those who had only attended kindergarten had had at least one juvenile arrest, and 15 percent had had two or more arrests as juveniles. Of those who had also attended the preschool program, 16 percent had had at least one arrest, and 8 percent had had two or more.

Strong Results

Those findings, the authors say, confirm those of the widely cited High/Scope Perry Preschool program in Ypsilanti, Mich. That longitudinal study, conducted since 1967, showed that at age 27, individuals who had been enrolled in a high-quality early-childhood-education program were one-fifth as likely to become chronic offenders as their peers who received no special services.

Lawrence J. Schweinhart, the chairman of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation's research division, said the strength of the work conducted by Arthur J. Reynolds, the University of Wisconsin associate professor of social work who studied the Chicago child-parent centers, is that the results were achieved on a "large scale, with real people, in a real big city."

Run by the Chicago school district since 1967, the program is offered for half a day during the school year. Parents are required to be involved, and unlike many early-childhood programs, it is taught by certified teachers.

The Fight Crime report also notes another study focusing on North Carolina's Smart Start program, a statewide initiative to improve access to high-quality child care. Ten percent of children from centers that had received help from Smart Start exhibited serious behavior problems in kindergarten, compared with 18 percent of children from centers that did not receive Smart Start services.

"This is important because research consistently shows that children who exhibit problem behaviors in the early grades are at far greater risk than other children of becoming teen delinquents and adult criminals," the report says.

The report also recaps previously released research on the benefits of high-quality child-care environments and the difficulty of finding and affording such programs. The report's authors urge political leaders to increase spending on child care.

"Our federal and state governments are falling far short of the investments in child care needed to meet their responsibility to protect the public safety," the report argues.

Vol. 19, Issue 35, Page 6

Published in Print: May 10, 2000, as High-Quality Child Care Again Linked to Fewer Juvenile Arrests
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