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NZ research has answers to the debate on child care

9 February 2012

NZ research has answers to the debate on child care

Family First raises an important issue when it discusses whether “daycare” is detrimental to children, and the debate is welcomed. But New Zealand research should also be drawn upon for the answers, the Families Commission says.

Family First cites international research to suggest long periods of “daycare” are bad for children’s long term development and that they should be with their parents.

“The core content of Family First’s message is one we can agree with” says Chief Families Commissioner Carl Davidson. “Time with parents is enormously important for the safe, healthy, happy development of our children.

“But,” Mr Davidson says, “Today’s economic reality is such that for many families there is no real choice; both parents have to be in paid work for the family to get by. And our own research shows that sole parent families are better off if they can work and not have to rely on a benefit. So access to early childhood education and care is not an option, it is a necessity.”

The challenge, Mr Davidson says, is to ensure that the time in early childhood education and care is balanced with time at home, and that the quality of education and care is high. “Our studies into out-of-school services, families where parents work non traditional hours (night and shift workers for example), and immigrant families, all point to access to affordable, high quality child care as being essential.”

“The Children’s Commissioner has also put out some of the best research available on the impact of early childhood education and care on young children and New Zealand families. That report, Through their Lens – an inquiry into non parental education and care of infants and toddlers, concurs with the evidence the Families Commission has on the same issue, which says that for most children, early childhood education and care is not harmful and is likely to lead to better educational and other outcomes, particularly for children from disadvantaged families.”

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Mr Davidson says there are two caveats to the Families Commission’s support of early childhood education and care.

“One, it must be quality care utilising well trained early childhood educators. And, secondly, it must be affordable and support parents’ choices around balancing paid work and family life, including how soon after a child is born that one or both parents return to paid work. So communities, governments, families and whānau themselves should be working to ensure that support mechanisms are in place to give parents the freedom of choice. This is why the Families Commission has been a consistent advocate for improved paid parental leave and flexible work provisions in New Zealand.”

The Families Commission is a centre of excellence for knowledge about family and whānau in New Zealand.

It generates and analyses knowledge about families and whānau to inform and influence policy development, programme management and family service delivery.

Through independent and impartial research and evaluation, the Families Commission has built an authoritative and robust knowledge base about issues relating to family and whānau.

Subject specialists are widely knowledgeable about family and whānau and are available for comment on key family issues.

An autonomous Crown entity, the Commission was established in 2004 under the Families Commission Act 2003.

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