Day Care Meets Social Needs Of Kids

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

Last week, in a small church where an attached day care served many church families, the minister suddenly decided that providing day care was promoting the separation of children and mothers. So he closed the day care.

Did he really expect mothers to "suddenly come to their senses and stay home to cook and sew?" No. Mothers scrambled for other situations. Why? Because the bills still needed to be paid, and staying home is a luxury most mothers can't afford.

Day care is not a new, evil concept cranked out of the late part of the 20th Century. During the industrial revolution mothers who had to work used day care. Again, during World War II, women held down both the domestic fort and the financial one while dad was off defending the nation against the enemy and day care again became a common practice.

In the '70s, the American dream crashed right through middle class America's saving accounts and women again went to work to make possible ordinary things like owning a home, a second car and college for the kids. And now, in the '90s, mom's job might mean the difference between eating and not eating. For some families, it's that bad.

Everybody knows day care is rarely a better situation than the individual one-on-one care a mother gives her child. But good parents also see that child care goes beyond the single relationship of mother to child.

Child care involves many kinds of care: father's care, sibling care, extended family care and neighborhood care. These are the kinds of ordinary relationships we once took for granted, yet some of it has never been available for many of our children. For all intents and purposes, many neighborhoods are dead. In fact, most kids' sense of community is: here today, moved tomorrow _ them or me._ as their families seek to follow jobs.

Families are scattered across the globe. People, on average, move every third year, so children are not growing up with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. The whole concept of family is sometimes limited to the photo album.

And siblings? Big families have three kids, not the 10 or 12 of 30 years ago, and most families are one-child homes, and often with a single parent.

Day care, when it's done right, can be the missing social element children need who have no access to neighborhood, extended families, and who don't have brothers and sisters. Children in day care often come to think of their provider as a kind of aunt, or second granny, or at least a treasured "neighbor" in the real sense of the word neighbor.

Close relationships between children in day care often go beyond friendships. Children often begin to think of friends as closer than cousins, and as important as brothers or sisters.

So when the minister slammed the doors to what he thought was the corrupting factor of young families, what he was really doing was slamming the doors on the children.

Day care is not the corrupting element here, the economy is. What day care can be, when it is provided as an extension of the family, and is truly dedicated to the family, is an exciting and safe haven for children who must be out of the loving environment of home.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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