Kids are especially vulnerable during their first five years of life and this is also a time when research has concluded that significant and important brain development occurs. The caregivers that children have during this time are important for keeping kids safe and the interactions that they have with kids can have a significant impact on brain development.
Generations ago, the primary caregiver was usually the child’s mother, but times have changed. As more women have entered the workforce, there has been a significant shift toward the use of non-relative paid caregivers. In Nebraska, the vast majority of kids under age six — 74 percent — have all available parents in the workforce. A parent who doesn’t have affordable and reliable child care may not be able to work and it can compromise their ability to earn enough to provide for their children’s needs.
This is why child care is important. So important. Very important. To my mind, there aren’t enough adequate adjectives to describe its importance. Exceptionally important, perhaps?
In spite of what we know about the importance of a child’s early years and the increasing use of child care, our policies lag behind. Nebraska currently has the lowest eligibility for child care assistance in the entire country and also has no mechanism for assessing the quality of care that children are provided.
Last week, the state legislature took an important step forward in advancing our policies for children by giving initial approval to LB 507 with an amendment to provide for a small increase in eligibility for child care assistance. LB 507 starts to put in place a quality rating system for child care centers receiving public funds and provides incentives to improve the quality of care kids are receiving.
The bill as amended represents an important step forward in an area where our policies lag far behind the times. We hope that the legislature will continue to support this bill as it moves forward. Our state’s kids can’t afford to wait any longer!