For child care, disclosure urgedParents with young children face a number of tough choices at this time of the year, such as finding the best day care center or prekindergarten program for their offspring. However, this process has become more anxiety ridden recently as new reports of abuse and poor food hygiene at child care centers have emerged this year. As the standards of licensed day care centers can vary widely, parents tend to trawl the Internet and rely on word-of-mouth in forming balanced judgments, as objective information is still hard to come by.
In order to address this problem, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that it would release an assessment report of the country’s day care and prekindergarten institutions by the end of this month in an attempt to calm parents’ fears after the reports of abuse started to crop up. Maintaining this momentum, it revised the law regarding child care in June to facilitate the disclosure. The report, when released, will show how the ministry evaluates day care centers and other institutes according to 78 criteria, including what kind of caring environment and programs they provide as well as their food and safety standards. Out of a perfect score of 100, they must earn at least 75 points to be granted permission to operate. This means that those which succeed in getting their licenses stamped can have wildly different merits and demerits. And if the final scores are provided in detail, parents can pore over these and select the center that is most suitable to the needs of their child.
However, the National Assembly recently decided to put off the move until the end of 2013, citing budgetary restraints.
This has generated speculation that legislators may have been pressured to change tack by the child care industry. One government official even conceded that child care agencies have been strongly resisting the government’s move to release the detailed scores on their respective performances.
Whatever the rationale, delaying a policy that has been promised to the public is clearly not acceptable, especially in sensitive matters such as child care. Parents are nervous about sending their kids to day care centers for the first time, and this anxiety is augmented by the lack of guidelines and information about the standards of quality at such facilities. The government needs to release the information as quickly as possible, and the industry should cooperate fully with authorities to restore its credibility and raise the quality of child care.