It’s no secret: our economy has definitely hit rock-bottom and the climb back up to the top is going to take a long time here in Las Vegas. People are unemployed, under-employed, working under reduced wage situations and many are homeless. Children in the northern part of Las Vegas rely upon school programs to feed them, and children in the rest of the city and suburbs are beginning to feel to pinch as well.
Schools such as Whitney Elementary have set up “stores” in which their homeless and underemployed parents can get necessary items for their children, and the children in school can be guaranteed hot meals. CCSD is serving more hot meals to more children on a daily basis than ever before. Daycares are stressing their meal programs and provisions, and still the struggles continue.
With lack of money comes stress and frustration. Often children and pets bear the brunt when the parents are stretched to the max. Parents can’t afford child care, if they don’t qualify for subsidies, and those without jobs are left in limbo. Unemployment Insurance, if they qualify, can take a long time to be granted. Children in the Las Vegas area are being left at home earlier and earlier, to fend for themselves and their younger siblings. Parents (such as one mother in California) may lock their children in the car while they eke out an existence. Preschool children leave for daycare or their school during the night or very early in the morning, and return the same time the next day. While children have maximum hours set for attendance at daycare and childcare facilities, some centers extend this. I have taught children who spend over 15 hours a day at preschool! It’s not always for the benefit of the child, who needs parental love and attention.
Neglected children turn to peers and that’s how gangs form, folks. When peer attention replaces parental attention, it’s a given fact.
What does this have to do with childcare?
Children who attend school have the opportunity for steady meals during school hours and a safe place to care for them (Safe Key) before and after school. If your preschool child is in a quality childcare setting, they also get stability. When daycare teachers are valued and appreciated (and paid a decent amount of money) they stay on their jobs. Children thrive with the consistency and safe atmosphere within the classroom. They have their meals, engage in learning, play outside safely and have alternatives from which to choose. They learn to make choices, hopefully the right ones, that will benefit them throughout their lives.
While children only in school-run facilities are left adrift during the holidays, children in good childcare facilities know that they always have a place to be. The stability and routine are a comfort. They don’t have to turn to their peers on the street to get attention (negative or positive). They don’t go home to empty houses or peer from the car window, waiting for a parent to come back. They can talk to their teachers, make friends with other children, and learn valuable life skills. They can relax and be children, not little adults.
When a good child care facility can bend to the needs of the parent without jeopardizing their existing programs, and when they are organized and well-run, it’s amazing how much good they can do. When a child care facility is poorly run, with a captain running the ship aground a rocky shore, so to speak, and you can see it’s sinking fast, it’s a frighteningly quick decline in the care and services offered. I’ve been there and witnessed that.
Good preschool child care facilities have good programs. They provide nutritious, balanced meals and snacks on a rotating basis. They have adequate, reliable staff who enjoy their jobs and show it. The children are happy, the staff team is relaxed, and the Director is in charge. The curriculum reflects the needs of the individual child as well as the masses. They learn by building upon previous knowledge and your child comes home feeling as though they have actually learned something each day. Reading, art, math, science and dramatic play are encouraged. The centers are attractive and interest-based. Materials are organized and children have been taught to clean up after themselves. The rooms are bright and well-lit and the toys are in good condition and well-used. Children are challenged academically, with puzzles, games, well-run circle times and opportunity for both indoor and outdoor play each day. There are special events to which parents are invited. There is no fear where open houses, inspections or unexpected visitors are concerned.
Quality childcare provides every child in their care with the materials needed for growth and development and they celebrate every child’s achievements. The teachers are there to love, cherish and teach their little children, even the more challenging individuals, and the children respond by blossoming and growing. There are many centers in Las Vegas and Henderson that actually fulfill this mandate and so much more.
The value of child care in a child’s life is security, sanctuary, stability, learning and safety. That’s the bottom line.