This week the Children’s Commissioner, John Angus, released a report which emphasised the need for greater parental involvement in caring for children – especially those under 2 years of age. Attachment to the primary caregiver is very important for good brain development of children. The Commissioner points towards the solution – in a very diplomatic politically correct way:
“The report also finds that in an ideal world, care at home by parents or extended family is in the best interests of infants under one-year-old. That’s not about judging parents for returning to work or saying that all young infants should be at home all the time. That’s not the reality for many of the parents we spoke to – who have financial, career and family pressures.
“But there is room for government policy to better support parents who make a choice to stay at home, through more flexible parental leave provisions. I think it’s time we revisited the mix of parental leave entitlements and subsidised child care to see how they can be structured to best meet the needs of very young children.
“Rather than spend a large amount of tax payers’ money on subsidies for infants to be in child care, that money might be better put into supporting care at home by the parent. For an under 2-year-old child in full time care, the taxpayer subsidy actually comes close to what a parent receives in paid parental leave,” he said.
“Children under two have very different needs to older children so we can’t take a one size fits all approach to child care. Under 2-year-olds’ rapid brain development, underdeveloped immunity and need for stable attachment mean they have very specific educational and care needs.
The Report expressed concerns about the quality of some childcare facilities.
“Our report suggests changes are needed to ensure consistent high quality – and that current policy, regulation and training of staff is a bit underdone. “This isn’t surprising given that the education and care of under-2s is the fastest growing area in the provision of early childhood services.”
The Report was also critical of the way current policy restricts parental choice.
“These findings are made in a context in which many parents feel they do not have a choice about returning early to work, or that their choice is very constrained and determined by factors other than their preference. These findings should not be construed as a criticism of working mothers. Society has changed. Working mothers and consequently non-maternal childcare are part of this change. The inquiry on which this report is based has concluded that formal ECS should be seen as a contribution, in partnership with parents and often extended family members, to a child’s learning and development.
The Commissioner also reminded the government that New Zealand has international commitments to honour in the way NZ treats its most vulnerable young citizens.
“As a signatory to UNCROC, New Zealand has a legal obligation to consider the best interests of children in its policies. If this is to be done well, some changes need to be made to the current set of policies, regulations and practices around support for parental and non-parental care of infants and toddlers. The recommendations in this report set out a pathway to achieve those changes.”
The full report can be found at www.occ.org.nz A summary document is also available. http://www.occ.org.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/8107/CC_SRThroughthierlens_21032011.pdf