No simple solution to early-childhood daycare crisis

Knowledge already exists in the field. We must demand that any future government studies the issue of early childhood education in depth, creates a plan and works to implement it.

By TALI YARIV-MASHAL
July 17, 2019 21:15
3 minute read.
RIVKA LAZOVSKY visits a WIZO day-care center on the first day of school.

RIVKA LAZOVSKY visits a WIZO day-care center on the first day of school. (photo credit: KFIR SIVAN)

Currently, as more details of the shocking affair of the abuse of babies and toddlers in the Rosh Ha’ayin nursery school are being revealed, we find ourselves in a storm of emotions. It is during such times that we struggle with our emotions so as not to get carried away in a populist discourse which will only offer a quick fix, rather than a serious solution to solve the problem at hand.
 
But we must realize that the solution to the wide-ranging problems we see in early childhood in Israel cannot be reached immediately, and that dealing with the issue will take time. In fact, creating a quick solution will only cause damage and result in the long-term problems being ignored and the discourse being demeaned. The problems lie in the fact that government responsibility for the emotional and mental development of Israel’s youngest citizens has never been defined.
 
Our children are born into a difficult situation in which only a third of them will be cared for in a supervised setting, while the other two-thirds will be cared for in private settings, or at home. Most of those children will be in a setting which lacks the framework for proper mental and emotional development. The reality is that the state has very limited responsibility and authority for the care of our most precious possessions, from birth to age three. This very limited responsibility is divided between different ministries, without coordination or reporting between them. Today, the state’s ability to ensure appropriate frameworks for babies and toddlers is minimal.
 
Unfortunately, we already know that even in supervised frameworks cameras do not prevent inappropriate behavior of caregivers. At best (and this is not always the case), they may prevent abuse or guarantee appropriate punishment for the abuser. However, the problem is much deeper: ensuring the future of our young must begin with proper parental education, and continue with the creation of a clear standard of training and guidance for all those who come into contact with our children (caregivers, teachers, assistants). In order to be able to reach as many families as possible, we must also as assist local authorities to develop a standard of care, education and guidance for parents, families and private caregivers.
 
Caring for babies and toddlers is difficult, challenging and often frustrating. Anyone who has ever looked after six to seven babies for a whole day knows this, as does every parent. This is why it is vital to ensure that those who care for our children, as well as new parents – especially those who are initially part of an at-risk group – must undergo proper professional training and be provided with the correct tools, and accompanied with ongoing emotional guidance.
 
In Israel there are a number of NGOs specializing in early childhood. These organizations create the infrastructure for what we all hope will form the basis of the government’s policy: training programs for professional staff, guidance for new parents, research showing support options to ensure proper development for toddlers, and more. To improve the dismal state of early childhood education, the government must accept responsibility. There must also be a change in the general perception to ensure that the moment of birth is the moment of the newborn’s entry into a just, egalitarian and democratic society.
 
Knowledge already exists in the field. We must demand that any future government studies the issue of early childhood education in depth, creates a plan and works to implement it.
 
The writer is the director of The Beracha Foundation that operates within the fields of education, environment and culture in Israel.


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