When we paid for our 3-year-old firstborn’s preschool, I remember vividly – even after 21 years – thinking to myself how other families could afford preschool. It was an option that I was willing to let go, but my husband insisted that we would send both of our children to preschool. He did not want to miss opportunities to provide both of our children with preschool advantages. I know that there are families who would love such opportunities, but would never be able to afford quality childcare and preschool.
Why would our society not want to fund quality services and programs for ALL children?
McGowan (2014) outlined a list of five lessons we can learn from the history of child welfare services; they are what we call early childcare and education programs today. I think three of them are worth mentioning here:
1. We can never perfectly resolve the tensions between the interests of children/families and the community at large.
2. Our willingness to invest adequately in the provisions of services to enhance the well-being of families is “meager and begrudging at best” (p.41).
3. Although children’s needs would change over time, our social responsibility to support those children and their families remains constant.
Why would we be reluctant to invest in early childhood programs for all children?
Some of the reasons why we do not invest more robustly in such programs include:
1. parents’ rights versus children’s needs;
2. federal versus state versus local responsibility;
3. public versus voluntary financing and service provision;
4. developmental versus protective services
5. specialized professional services versus informal, natural helping networks.
Sadly, “all these issues appear and reappear in the major historical documents on the American child welfare system” (McGowan, 2014, p.11).
Although most Deaf babies are eligible for intervention services from birth to 21, not all of them receive such services. California has a 94% rate of follow-up after families’ initial newborn hearing screening tests. Sometimes, families still fall through cracks.
As for early services for deaf children, we are faced with the polarizing service provision viewpoints of professionals providing specialized services and Deaf adults who are able to provide with more natural helping networks such as serving as language models to Deaf babies and their families.
NAEYC has 10 program standards, and #8 is Community Relationships. Deaf communities in the United States are a resource that is underutilized. “Relationships with agencies and institutions in the community can help a program achieve its goals and connect families with resources that support children’s healthy development and learning” (NAEYC, n.d.). They provided some examples of an ideal community relationship; it involves inviting American Sign Language (ASL) performers and artists of which there are many.
For every dollar invested, we get an average annual return of 7-10% (Children’s Defense Fund, n.d.). This really begs the question why we would not invest more robustly and less begrudgingly.
Children’s Defense Fund. (n.d.). Early childhood development & learning. Retrieved from: http://www.childrensdefense.org/policy/earlychildhood/
McGowan, B. (2014). Historical evolution of child welfare services. In G. Mallon and P. McCartt Hess (Eds.), Child welfare for the twenty-first century: A handbook of practices, policies, and programs (pp. 11-43). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
NAEYC. (n.d.). The 10 NAEYC program standards. Retrieved from: http://families.naeyc.org/accredited-article/10-naeyc-program-standards#8