A comment was left about the 1:4 blog I posted some time back. The writer wondered whether the prospective 1:4 adult to child ratio for babies may have been a factor in the current ABC crisis. It was a reasonable comment, but the problems with ABC may be a little less innocent than the mere tightening of the financial child care belt.
Over the next year or two we will see the unfolding story in the news about what actually happened at ABC and the other corporate child care providers currently biting the dust. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ABC story turns out to be a modern version of Little Red Ridinghood, with ABC being the wolf and Little Red Ridinghood being our vulnerable little children in care. In the meantime, let me assure you that quality care and education does not leave any profit for stakeholders. Dedicated Early Childhood Educators know that, which is why many of us were up in arms when ABC was floated on the stock exchange. It did not make sense at the time, because passionate Early Childhood Professionals did not see child care as a business, and they were certainly not in the game for profit. I have worked for a number of community based preschools, and can reveal that whatever ‘profit’ was made quickly made its way back to the children via additional puzzles, bikes, new sand for the sandpit, exciting new paints, aprons, and wages for an additional needs teacher. We were lucky if we balanced the budget each year – even with the DoCS subsidy provided to community based services that helped keep the fees relatively low. We knew of only one way to make a profit in child care: by cutting back on quality – qualified staff, educational equipment, heating, cooling, hygiene, and healthy (and sufficient) food. My intention is not to scare you, the reader, but believe me, these mean-spirited cost-cutting measures do happen on a regular basis at a for-profit child care centre near you (come to think of it, this sounds more like the Hansel and Gretel story). So, even ABC centres must have improved over time, otherwise they may not have gone under. Whatever the cause for their collapse, many Early Childhood Educators are feeling a little flutter of hope in their hearts: perhaps ‘good’ does eventually conquer all. And believe me, we have been celebrating. Why don’t you join us – it’s as easy as ABC: Just grab my hand, step into the circle, and sing along: “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf…”.