The Eggs’N Issues meeting of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce last month was devoted to the importance of early childhood education.
This topic could not be more dear to my heart.
I have been working in the field of early childhood education for 30 years, and during this time, our knowledge and expertise have grown by leaps and bounds.
One of the speakers at the chamber breakfast, Rick Hulefeld, founder of Children Inc., said, “At birth, less than 10 percent of the synaptic connections in the brain are there. By age 5, the brain is 90 percent developed.
“The thinking used to be that parents would keep children safe and warm at home until they went off to first grade, and then they would begin to learn. We have to change that thinking forever,” Hulefeld added.
As he made clear, the quality of child care and education for our young children is crucial. In Kentucky, only about 30 percent of child care centers are quality rated under a system developed by the state to increase the effectiveness of learning and prepare children for school. Parents need to know what to look for when searching for high-quality child care.
Former Northern Kentucky University President Jim Votruba and United Way Area Director Leshia Lyman sent an overall message that while strides have been made in improving early childhood education, a lot more remains to be done.
Where do parents turn? How do they know what to look for? Who trains the individuals who work in these early childhood centers? What are the health and safety standards? How do we advocate for better standards?
These questions can be answered. Each state has a resource and referral agency that can assist individuals with getting the information they need. In Kentucky and Ohio, we have 4C for Children.
Its mission is simple: to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of early childhood education and care in the region so every child has a positive experience and a foundation for success in school and life.
For parents, 4C offers information on selecting quality child care and the new “star rating systems” now operating in both states. The agency helps parents find quality child care by maintaining a database of more than 2,600 child care options, including licensed child care centers, preschools, school-age child-care programs and 4C-registered family child care homes. This service is free.
For child care providers, the agency provides regular training and technical assistance. The focus on training that meets the star rating system criteria is a high priority. The agency offers assistance to individuals wanting to start a center-based program.
For the community, the agency advocates on behalf of the children and families on relevant public policy issues. It participates in community initiatives that support children and families.
I am asked often what to look for in various types of child care. Here are a few things to keep in mind: Take your time in reviewing your choices. Screen options by telephone and select caregivers to visit. Observe caregivers with children and interview more than one caregiver. Try to match parenting styles and trust your instincts.
Parents should ask lots of questions on topics that include nutritional guidelines, discipline policy, outdoor play, programming, educational background of staff, credentials and certification of the program, written policies, health and safety, parent communications and on-going professional development for staff.
After evaluating two or three programs, choose one carefully, keeping in mind what is best for your child and your family.
The welfare of our future leaders – our children – is in the hands of each of us.
By Karen Middendorf
Source: Cincinnati.com - http://goo.gl/UQT6S