New Jersey's Childcare System In Crisis
Cecilia Zalkind, President & CEO, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, discusses the findings of the Advocates for Children of New Jersey study on child care for children in the birth to three age range, and explains why New Jersey’s child care system is in crisis.
"We are honored and pleased to welcome back our good friend Cecilia Zalkind, who is President and CEO, Advocates For Children of New Jersey. Cecilia, good to see you. Thank you for having me. We're working together on a new initiative, it is called Right From the Start NJ, dedicated to dealing with important issues involving infants and children. What are those key issues? Well I think this is the first time that our state has looked in any unified way at the birth to three needs of children. We know so much more now about brain development. This is such a critical time for learning and development. It's a time to really support parents as their child's first and best teacher. It's a time to make sure that children have access to adequate healthcare. And it's also a time to look at our child care system and whether it's providing the early education that young children need. Let's talk specifically about state policy. We're interviewing legislators, others, who are involved in this issue, who have the ability to have impact. But the question is impact on what? If we were going to change state policy, what would it look like? And how would it benefit the babies and infants we're talking about? Well I think there are a number of directions we could go, but to me the most urgent issue is childcare for babies. We have a childcare system that, I think, is imploding. And it's an issue for low income families who depend on state assistance for childcare. It's an issue for middle income families too. It's very hard to find good center-based childcare for babies. How would people...? First of all, making the decision as to where your baby, where your child, should be, in a center that's caring for him or her... how would they even know what's best? Well, interesting you should ask that, we've just engaged on some focus groups with parents. We launched it on Sunday in my home in Montclair. I live in a neighborhood with many many young families, and we brought about a dozen mothers together, and said, you know, "How did you choose childcare?" And what I discovered was that it doesn't matter, whatever your economic status is, it's expensive, it's frustrating, it really causes a lot of stress. Very hard. Surprise to me, there are not that many options for center-based childcare for babies. Really? Really. And so when people make that decision, how much does economics play a role in it? I th... well I think, yes, for families economics plays a role. What was interesting to..."