Toronto daycare centers are expected to receive $2.1 million from city council for next year to ensure adequate salaries for workers and help keep fees down.

And the parliamentary task force on daycare is expected to recommend that subsidized group care be made available to every pro-school child in Canada, at a cost of billions of tax dollars.  The recommendation would be in keeping with the proposals of most of the groups that made submissions to it.

Consider for example, the membership of the Ontario Coalition for Better Daycare.  Many of this group’s supporters are community groups with a long and commendable history of concern for child welfare.

However, the fact that they’re joined by the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL), greatly weakens their standing with pro-family people looking for a good child-care system.  Since CARAL’s only known commitment to child welfare revolves around promoting the termination of already-conceived children, theirs is not a banner a lot of people feel comfortable marching behind.

This is not to besmirch the entire membership of the Ontario Coalition for Better Daycare, or even to criticize their proposals.  But it does show yet again that not all submissions of the subject of daycare should be taken at face value.

No one familiar with today’s economy would deny that many families need care for their children because both parents, or the single parent, must work.  However, more than one concerned parent wonders how we got from that economic reality to the point where group daycare is being touted as the best place for children to group up. There is growing pressure to make everyone pay for it, to a much wider and costlier extent than we already do.

These pressures come from radical feminists, who know that a woman can’t compete with a man if she has to raise her own children, and from the daycare establishment, whose concern for their own livelihoods is at least understandable.  The lifestyle media, with their concentration of liberal views, reflect the bias of these groups to the point that we are now seeing articles suggesting that daycare children have some advantages over their home-reared counterparts.

What do we really know about the long-term effects of daycare?  The short answer is, not much, because there hasn’t yet been a generation that grew up there.

The long, qualified answer is that group care is very inconsistent with what we do know about the needs of young children, particularly those under the age of two.  The work of countless researchers indicates that for maximum emotional development, children in this age group need an ongoing, one-to-one relationship with one person.  And maximum intellectual growth appears to be best fostered by giving the child a realistically free hand to explore his own environment.  The very best daycare centers are unable to meet either requirement.

In the older age groups, the situation does change.  Children from severely deprived backgrounds will usually benefit from some daycare experience because it provides some structure, opportunity for group play, and other social benefits.

The middle class child will show fewer positive changes, since his life already has a fair amount of structure.  However, the lack of one-to-one care does appear to be less significant as the child approaches school age.

Knowing this much about a child’s true daycare needs, it would appear that group care is the last option we should be devoting our tax resources to.

When both parents must work, the infant is going to be deprived of a great deal of parental attention.  Rather than compound the problem by providing a series of anonymous caregivers, more attention should be paid to tax credits for single parents or second income earners who choose to stay home; training and supervision for women offering small group child care in their homes; and after school programmes for older children

These options would not only be better for the child, they would also be far less costly than building a licensed daycare centre in every neighborhood.  Housewives (and house-husbands) are already making a considerable financial sacrifice to raise their own families.  Why should they carry an even greater burden!