Extension News

Iowans Say Child Care Quality Is Important, but What Should Government Do?


AMES, Iowa -- Iowans value quality child care but don’t agree on the role government should take to guarantee quality of care, according to an Iowa State University Extension report.


More than 300 Iowans in 12 communities discussed ways to improve the quality of child care in Iowa during a series of public forums last fall. The findings from those forums have been compiled and are being presented to the participants and policy-makers, said Lesia Oesterreich, an ISU Extension family life specialist.


“Forum participants clearly see the value of educating parents and the public about quality child care,” Oesterreich said. “But they have mixed views on the appropriate role of government, such as whether government should pay for child care or whether government should set mandatory or voluntary standards for child care providers.”


Child Care Lasts a Lifetime community forums were held in Algona, Burlington, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Decorah, Des Moines, Dubuque, Eldora, Keokuk, Keosauqua, Ottumwa and Tipton. ISU Extension sponsored the forums along with the Iowa Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and the American Association of University Women. Local Community Empowerment Boards were a key partner in hosting and providing support for the forums.


A full report of the findings is available online at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/quality/research.html.


“We hope Iowans will review the findings and then share their views with their legislators and others,” Oesterreich said.


Community members discussed three policy approaches for helping communities enhance the quality of child care: increasing government regulation, informing and educating parents and facilitating parental care.


“Participants reflected a broad range of the population, including parents, grandparents, child care providers and professionals, school personnel, community and civic leaders and legislators,” Oesterreich said. “However, child care advocates were in the majority.”


She noted several common themes that surfaced in the forums. Participants identified needs for adequate funding to ensure quality care, including the need for subsidies to assist low-income families; education for parents and the public about what to look for in quality care; increased training for child care providers; increased regulation that is consistent, enforceable and flexible; and societal change in values regarding the importance of children and their care.


After the forums, participants shared ideas about follow-up actions they planned to take at the local level, Oesterreich said.



Contacts :

Lesia Oesterreich, Human Development & Family Studies, (515) 294-0363, loesterr@iastate.edu

Cynthia Needles Fletcher, Human Development & Family Studies, (515) 294-8521, cynthia@iastate.edu

Jeanne Warning, Extension to Families, (515) 294-6622, jwarning@iastate.edu

Laura Sternweis, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu