It has been a long, hard battle, but finally, we have victory: The 0-2 year olds who have until now been cared for by 1 adult to 5 children in 3/4 of the State’s child care centres will no longer have to wait quite as long for their turn to have a cuddle.
After years of resistance from the private owners, who pleaded high staff costs, sanity has finally prevailed. The revised Children’s Services Regulation, due out in 2010, will make a change from the current 1:5 ratio to 1 adult per 4 babies/ toddlers law. Unless you are a child care worker or early childhood teacher it can be hard to imagine having 5 little charges, one teething, another biting a third, a fourth crying, and a fifth wailing for more food…Some days are like that for the early childhood worker. The preferred ratio, of course, would be 1 adult to 3 babies. Why is this? Because it is less stressful for the adult, who can afford to relax and relate to babies, rather than be on alert and in a supervisory mode. Workers who are stressed are also less likely to be sensitive and responsive to their charges. Their stress translate to the babies, and we now know that stress is really bad for babies, and if severe and constant enough, can cause longterm problems. Also, babies need a lot of physical care, nappy change, tucking in, feeding, dressing, all one-to-one stuff. And when there are 5 babies needing all this, it becomes a routine rush job, rather than a caring and nurturing time for both adult and child, with much chatting and babbling going on while the job is being done. The chatting is very important, too, as this is how babies learn to speak. About 1/3 of the childcare services who offer baby places are already providing the 1:4 ratio. A few lucky babies may even attend a service where the ratio is 1:3. But the majority still stick to the minimum requirements of 1 adult to 5 babies. After the revision of the Regulation in 2010, though, there will be more chatting and babbling, more time to play and read stories, more sensitive care giving and less stressed staff and babies. This victory is due to all those early childhood advocates who kept pushing for this change. It will make a big difference in the lives of both babies and their carers. Will it make a difference in yours? I’d love to hear from you!